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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

TOP 100: Keene's first year marked by focus on growth, people, integration

A year ago, Science Applications International Corp. CEO Nazzic Keene had just taken over leadership of the company and SAIC’s $2.5 billion acquisition of Engility was not yet a year old.

For Keene, her priorities over the past year have been to drive the company toward profitable, sustainable organic growth, focus on talent, and complete the later stages of the Engility integration.

Today, with her company perched at No. 11 on the Washington Technology Top 100 with $3.7 billion in prime contracts, those three priorities establish a benchmark of sorts for her first year as CEO.

“I look at [the past year] through the lens of those priorities,” Keene told me.

In the company’s first quarter of its fiscal year it achieved organic growth but fell just short of that goal in second quarter results announced Sept. 2. The company reported that revenue, excluding acquisitions, contracted by 0.7 percent, because of slowdowns created by the COVID-19 pandemic. But when the company backed out COVID’s impact in the second quarter, organic revenue was 3 percent.

“We drove organic revenue growth nonetheless and I’m proud of the organization’s ability to really focus on that and value in the top line as well as the bottom line,” Keene said in an interview before the second quarter results were released.

And despite the pandemic, the company has been aggressively hiring new workers. And in light of COVID, talent has become even more important, she said.

For the third priority, the Engility integration is completed with expected cost synergies achieved. “We’ve seen a great opportunity to complement our portfolio on the revenue side and the people side, so the integration has gone exceptionally well,” she said.

That’s the year looking back. What will the next year bring? In many ways more of the same. Organic growth is a priority. People remain critical, and the company has another major acquisition in Unisys Federal to integrate.

Unisys Federal in many ways has been a different integration process, Keene said. In many ways it is simpler because Unisys Federal was a division of a larger company and not an entire company. There isn’t another CEO or chief financial officer or other C-suite infrastructure that needs to be dealt with.

“What we acquired was a grouping of products, a grouping of contracts and a group of great talent, so it makes it a bit easier,” she said.

COVID have made the integration a little more complicated because the week the deal closed was the same week that SAIC sent nearly its entire workforce home to work remotely. “We’ve been integrating for the most part, virtually, but the teams have come together,” Keene said.

The strategic fit of Unisys Federal was the big driver for the deal because it added more capabilities around digital transformation and a more repeatable commercial way of doing business. Unisys Federal’s product offerings of Stealth and CloudForte, which improve cybersecurity and cloud migration, are prime examples of how SAIC can differentiate itself.

“To be able to marry what SAIC was doing with what Unisys Federal was doing gave us an exponential boost,” Keene said.

SAIC has had some important recompete wins in recent months, including a $1.3 billion contract with the Justice Department to support its asset forfeiture work. It also won a $653 million FAA contract for air traffic controller training.

Winning recompetes is critical and is a testament to the quality of the work SAIC provides, Keene said.

“Ensuring that we win those recompetes is always top of mind and something that is a key priority of the company,” she said.

But so is new contract wins. “We’ve expanded our portfolio and built our backlog and our past performance qualifications,” Keene said. “It is allowing us to pursue larger contracts.

One of those big new contract awards was a $950 million Defense Logistics Agency to manage a global supply chain for commodity products. The company will be providing automation and other tools that will support collecting requirements, forecasting and inventory and delivery management.

Another notable new contract awards include a $630 million Air Force Technology Application Development and Sustainment award to support integration of weather forecasting systems.

A key to winning and delivering on these kinds of contract is innovation. SAIC does this through acquisitions such as Unisys Federal, partnerships with commercial companies such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and ServiceNow. The company has what it calls the Innovation Factory as a place where customers and partners can test drive new solutions.

The work there covers both current needs and future mission requirements. “We are very mission focused in how we think about the Innovation Factory, she said.

The company also has the T3 Conference, which focuses on tools, technologies and talent. “We’ve tried to create an ecosystem that allows us to drive innovation at all levels of the organization,” Keene said.

Some areas of interest include artificial intelligence, automation, space, and augmented and virtual reality.

The company also has a program where individual employees or small groups can apply for funds to work on a new technology or solution. “People apply and we provide some seed money,” Keene said. “It’s an incremental way to drive creativity, to drive thought leadership.”

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 08, 2020 at 9:39 AM

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