How Groundswell leans on tech partnerships in its wins

George Batsakis, CEO of Groundswell, is leading the company's strategy to form close ties with commercial technology companies as a way to differentiate itself in the market.

George Batsakis, CEO of Groundswell, is leading the company's strategy to form close ties with commercial technology companies as a way to differentiate itself in the market. Courtesy of Groundswell

At its launch, Groundswell chose a few commercial applications to focus on and cites that approach as helping capture several contracts exceeding $100 million and aiding the pursuit of a $1 billion prize.

When George Batsakis and Jerad Speigel launched Groundswell in 2022, they had a thesis in mind on how to build the business -- become experts in a few critical back-office applications.

Rather being technology-agnostic, Groundswell picked a set of commercial applications to focus on with the goal of becoming one of the top two providers of those apps in the federal space.

The three Groundswell have chosen so far are Appian, SAP and Workday.

Groundswell has used acquisitions to build out its Appian practice. With SAP, Groundswell is a certified development partner and has created its own products off of SAP's product line.

With Workday, Groundswell is one of that company's first partners in the federal market. Workday's software is built for human resources and financial operations.

Batsakis, Groundswell's chief executive, said that Appian and Workday are in their early stages in federal but growing. That is similar to how Salesforce and ServiceNow got their start a decade ago.

That is Groundswell’s thesis and the company can now point to several contract wins over the last several months exceeding $100 million in value for each, Batsakis said.

“The application layer has mountains of technical debt and it is particularly pronounced in areas where a lot of the competition hasn’t focused and that’s the back-office systems,” he said.

Human capital management, finance and supply chain are where Groundswell’s string of wins have come from.

Groundswell is working with one unnamed customer to use Appian's low-code engine in modernizing applications under an 11-year, $106 million contract.

“This is a long-term commitment, a nine-figure contract that’s enterprise-wide,” Batsakis said. “There are the types of contracts that were the early building blocks for Salesforce back in the day.”

With Workday, Batsakis points to a $206 million Defense Intelligence Agency award focused on human capital management system modernization.

“Our belief is that Workday is the archetype for a commercial [software as a service] that’s going to rip through federal much like Amazon’s cloud did,” he said, referring to the breakthrough for AWS when it won the CIA cloud contract in 2013.

Workday is among the most widely-used HR systems in many commercial sectors. Many defense technology contractors also use the Workday platform, including Groundswell.

Federal agencies know they have a problem coming as the number of retirements increases.

“The government’s systems are overly customized and difficult to use,” Batsakis said.

Before the DIA win, Groundswell won a smaller contract with an agency that has an international footprint.

“It was a good way to kind of cut our teeth,” he said.

But the DIA competition was on a different level. Batsakis said Groundswell was the only company bidding with Workday and people scoffed at that choice.

“They didn’t think the agency was ready or prepared to make that kind of move,” Batsakis said.

“But the way they ran their competition was to compare the legacy systems and a bunch of new entrants,” he added. “It was an incredible win and they plan to lead the effort in the [intelligence community] to usher in an era where Workday is their human capital management system.”

Work began with a kickoff meeting during the week started April 1. Batsakis described that as a partnership between Workday, Groundswell and DIA.

A second systems integration contract for change management is in the works. Groundswell will likely not bid on that, preferring to stay close to the to the commercial technology firm, or original equipment manufacturer as Batsakis calls them.

“We want to be on the inside with the OEM, working with their software engineers and building tools and accelerators,” he said.

Groundswell is leaning into that approach as it pursues the Army’s $1 billion Enterprise Business Systems Convergence program. EBSC is structured as an Other Transaction Authority procurement and has gone from eight competitors to two -- Groundswell and Accenture Federal Services.

“We’re in the middle of the last phase of EBSC,” Batsakis said. “We've leaned way forward into next generation SAP technology.”

One requirement of the competition was to demonstrate how to manage ammunition. Groundswell developed a tool to do that and it is SAP-certified. That development work started under an earlier OTA.

“It’s a really incredible achievement,” he said. “This ammunition product takes all the unique rules and policies, accountability, tracking and security and we built them into a suite of tools inside SAP.”

Groundswell is decidedly smaller than Accenture with 450 employees, which Batsakis readily acknowledged. But he touted the task force Groundswell has formed for EBSC as giving it an advantage.

Leidos is bringing its cloud and security offerings, while Microsoft is also a key technology partner. A third key teammate is NTT Data, which is a top-five SAP implementer worldwide and has 8,500 SAP practitioners in the U.S.

“We’ve shored up our structure and depth through teaming,” he said.

The Army will pick a winner of EBSC in about two months.

“My personal belief is that we’ve given them every reason to pick us, but they also have a very complicated enterprise,” he said.

The Army also has options as it could break EBSC up into a legacy portion and a modernization portion.

“It’s all conjecture at this point,” he said.

Whatever happens with EBSC, Groundswell is already looking forward and sees SAP modernization as a huge opportunity.

The Defense Logistics Agency is also looking at modernization as are the Navy, Customs and Border Protection agency and IRS among several others.

“Everybody has to move to the next generation of SAP and one of the reasons we created Groundswell was to get ahead of all that,” he said.