Ross Wilkers

COMPANIES

Accenture's new federal lead sees disruption as growth engine

The word “disruption” is prominent on several signs within the walls of Accenture Federal Services’ headquarters in Arlington, Va. The words have a double meaning for its new chief executive.

There is the ongoing disruption in the government with emerging technologies and services that are changing both work and the workforce inside agencies. And there is how Accenture Federal seeks to further take its parent’s commercial experience into government amid that disruption.

“We’ve been on a constant process of change, so what I’ve told our team is ‘hang on, change is continuing.’ And that’s our continuity,” Accenture Federal Services CEO John Goodman told me. Goodman succeeded David Moskovitz in mid-November after Moskovitz’s five years in charge.

“As part of that change which is continuing, we’ll need to dial up our focus,” Good man said.

Some areas where Accenture Federal is dialing up that focus includes what Goodman referred to as “human-centric design” frameworks aimed at helping users solve problems. Other examples include artificial intelligence and robotic process automation tools to handle high-volume transactions in back office functions.

“(They) can enable the government workforce then to focus on areas that are truly complex and require more human judgment,” Goodman said.

Natural language processing and machine learning technologies also can help the workforce transition to other areas that need more high-level functions, he said.

Since Goodman’s elevation to CEO, other changes to the subsidiary’s senior leadership team have taken place such as Ed Meehan’s promotion to Goodman’s former COO role. And former Homeland Security client head Matt Warren now leads the safety and citizen services portfolio formerly under Meehan’s leadership.

“It’s a real opportunity to help bring dynamic new leaders into positions where they can have greater impact on our business, on our clients and our people,” Goodman said.

Where Accenture Federal sees a great chance to gain more market share in particular is in changes to how the government acquires technologies and related services. Some agencies are starting to slowly move toward shorter acquisition cycle times and away from more traditional long-term methods, he said.

“The key is in taking the capabilities to real applications that can make a difference at scale,” Goodman said. “We are just at the beginnings of seeing the government buying more capabilities as a service so they don’t have the capital infrastructure costs and have the private sector partner take more risk there.

“We’re really excited about helping shift the way in which government buys so that they’re buying business outcomes and paying for what they need, not paying for a huge installation of people or capabilities.”

Accenture has also reshaped its business in recent years through a spree of acquisitions in technology areas like cloud, cybersecurity and analytics.

That run started in 2013 with the buy of defense and veteran health care IT outfit ASM Research. Then the company purchased Agilex Technologies almost two years later for $264 million to add agile development and digital-related work.

Accenture then turned its attention to the cyber domain with the late 2016 acquisition of Defense Point Security. Goodman said they are “very active in the government security operations centers and red teaming.”

That run further picked up in the early part of this year in a pair of deals over two days. The first was Endgame’s federal business and second was Defense Security Intelligence Services from VeriSign. Endgame added a “high-end proactive hunt vulnerability research capability” to Accenture, Goodman said.

The acquisition engine restarted in August with a deal for Phase One Consulting to add more cloud services including those in support of the Salesforce platform.

For cyber in particular, Goodman said that is one area where “we always focused on security in our own applications but were not proactive in bringing security solutions” to customers.

“We think there is an inflection in the market in the way government is buying, so that’s why we worked to develop an end-to-end capability in security from the infrastructure layer to the applications layer, all the way through app design,” he said.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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