2015 TOP 100

Top 100: Lockheed prepares for a return to growth

The overall federal market is still flat at best, and even the largest government contractors such as No. 1 Lockheed Martin are still looking for a turnaround.

But Sondra Barbour, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems & Global Solutions sector, is quick to point out that now is the time to prepare for the eventual comeback.

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This year and next will probably be flat. “We’re not seeing anything drastic in a reduction or an increase, but I think if you have a robust strategy, you’ll be one of the ones to come out of this is in a better place,” she said.

Lockheed Martin is ranked No. 1 on the Washington Technology Top 100 for the 21st consecutive year. But the company isn’t sitting still.

The growth areas that Barbour points to for the company include health, cyber, data analytics and energy. “Our business is about information, and that is where we’re seeing the most draw for our resources and our thought leadership,” she said.

Making acquisitions is one tool Lockheed has used to better position itself for those growth areas. For example, it acquired Systems Made Simple in 2014 to increase its health IT capabilities and gain access to more health-related contract vehicles. Lockheed has also made the cyber-related acquisition of Industrial Defender.

The company also is developing expertise in Agile development as more customers move away from the traditional waterfall development processes that can take years to deliver a new capability. “They are looking for sprints so that can get capabilities sooner, so they can get on with the mission that they have,” Barbour said.

Lockheed has been working on its Agile develop capabilities since 2008 and now has a center of excellence that is taking those capabilities across all of Lockheed Martin.

The company experienced several highs during the past year, including the fielding of the En Route Modernization, which has rolled out to all 20 FAA air traffic control centers. It replaced a 40-year-old system. The FAA has called ERAM the “heart of the Next Generation Air Transportation System and the pulse of the National Airspace System.”

“That was one that we were extremely proud of, giving the FAA the capability they need to then build in the efficiencies and enhance the safety and enhance their mission for the public,” Barbour said.

Another major accomplishment for the company was the successful completion of the Next Generation Identification system for the FBI. It replaced the nearly 20-year-old system the FBI used to process fingerprints.

“This was one of the largest development programs the FBI and the Justice Department had in its history, and it came in on schedule and on budget,” Barbour said. “it is yielding real benefits for the safety of our nation.”

The system has cut the time it takes to process fingerprints and identify suspects. “We are hearing success stories every day,” she said.

Not all Lockheed projects are as high profile as the ERAM and Next Generation Identification, but these projects teach powerful lessons to other Lockheed Martin projects, and a critical one is customer focus, Barbour said.

“These were large contracts, and of course we want to make sure we do everything we can, but the small ones matter as well, and you have to treat them that way,” she said. “You can’t treat it as ‘That’s a small one if we don’t perform, oh well.’ No. Every contract matters.”

It’s a matter of respect, she said.

In today’s market and moving forward, customer focus is a critical skill for success, so Lockheed puts a lot of effort into understanding its customers and listening to them.  For Barbour, that’s the top skill her organization needs to succeed.

And the second critical skill feeds off of that customer focus: having an agile business model.

“The agility of your business model is extremely important,” Barbour said. “You need different models for the times we’re in. One size does not fit all.”

That flexibility includes things such as the type of development model Lockheed will use and when, for example, it will partner with a small business prime.

“We don’t have to prime every job,” Barbour said. “Who’s the better group to provide this capability and how can we help them? That’s really what you should look at.”

And of course, flexibility in how the company delivers to the customer is critical. Certain times, it will be an as–a-service model, and other times, full-blown development is a better approach.

But all of it starts with understanding what the customer wants, she said.

“That's how you give them what they need at the price point that they have from a budget perspective,” Barbour said. “You really have to get in and say, ‘What's important to you?’ Really listening and understanding is critical at this time, for sure.”

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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