Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Washington Technology Power Breakfast Market Outlook: 2020 event. Each month, WashTech brings together four or five CEOs to share their ideas and opinions about the industry, including trends and challenges. This month’s panelists included senior leaders from a variety of small, midtier and large government contractors who shared their vision for the 2020 federal market:

  • Paul Dillahay, CEO of NCI Information Systems Inc.
  • Todd Stottlemeyer, CEO of CNSI
  • Scott McIntyre, CEO of Guidehouse
  • Tim Hurlebaus, President of CGI Federal
  • Dolly Oberoi, CEO of C2 Technologies

Facilitated by Nick Wakeman, Editor-in-Chief of Washington Technology, panelists provided a diverse array of perspective, thoughts and opinions. Here are a few highlights from each.

NCI: Unstoppable Teams and Strategic AI Partnerships

Paul Dillahay began by sharing the story of his debut with NCI three years ago. He never imagined that his first year with the company he intended to transform would start with handling a major crisis concerning a $19 million embezzlement case. It took another $19 million to thoroughly research and manage the case, which had been years in the making.

Undeterred, Paul built a team that was focused and unstoppable. He began by hiring Bridget Medeiros, a former Lockheed Martin colleague, as his senior vice president. They knew NCI had to put a stake in the ground to regain stability. And that’s exactly what they did, focusing talent and resources on bringing innovative, practical, U.S.-developed artificial intelligence solutions to the government. Developing a unique strategy that this market has never seen before, NCI selected three visionary AI firms with complementary technologies formed exclusive strategic partnerships with each one over the next two years. One firm specialized in robotic process automation, another in machine learning and the last is an expert in code-refactoring, an extremely effective tool to move to the cloud.

With the focus on AI as the agreed-upon solution, Paul refreshed his team and his pipeline, taking the savings from using AI to reinvest into more innovation. His actions were a huge risk for NCI, but it has since paid off in several contracts for the company as prime, partner and sub.

CNSI: Modular Solutions and Outcome Data

Todd Stottlemeyer is another industry insider, formerly with BDM and BTG. For 2020, he is focused on talent growth and product innovation. His vision includes building out a more robust product roadmap for CNSI, which delivers health information technologies to federal and state agencies.

Todd’s vision is particularly influenced by two trends: modular solutions and data analytics. When serving state agencies, modular solutions are not enough; they must to be interoperable for agencies to get optimal benefits. Similarly, he believes that data analytics must be actionable data, or “outcome data” to be truly useful. He also feels that data security will continue to be key and he’s proud that CNSI is committed to protecting the security of data.

C2 Technologies: Joint Ventures with Small Businesses

The third speaker was Dolly Oberoi. It was a special treat to hear from her, as she candidly shared her strengths and weaknesses. Originally from India, Dolly just celebrated her company’s 30-year anniversary. Her mission remains the same: to improve human performance. Even after all this time, Dolly experiences every year as a startup, filled with energy and challenges.

At its inception, C2 Technologies was 60% civilian and 40% DoD. Now the company is 20% civilian and 80% DoD. Much like Paul, Dolly’s strategy for growth was to partner. Unlike NCI, C2 Technologies formed 15 joint ventures with small businesses over the past few years. The approach has been very successful for the company, which invests significantly in R&D, participates in and sponsors hackathons.

Dolly’s goal is to keep brining something new to customers, so the company pivots to new areas frequently.

Guidehouse: Adjacency Acquisition

Next came Scott McIntyre, who joined Guidehouse in 2018. His vision was to grow the company through acquisition, so he looked at 31 different transactions – ranging from $25 million to $700 million – in 24 months. Scott wanted a true “adjacency” company so that there would be less talent redundancy in the acquisition. He found exactly what he wanted with Navigant, which brings Guidehouse to 7,000 people strong. Following this success, Scott is shifting his acquisition sites to looking for new technical domains to tuck in.

Scott believes in transparency. One of the first things he did when he got to Guidehouse was to set up a risk committee. Now, 20% of the company’s revenue is on risk management.

Like NCI, Scott has a goal to bring the best commercial practices to government. He feels strongly about bringing in a private equity (PE) partner for growth, saying that doing so is liberating and gives one tremendous strength when looking for acquisitions. He likens a PE partner to a real estate agent. They show you a house and, if you want to buy it, they put 20% down – but you must do the work. The plus side is that you have more access to capital. Scott said that there’s still $500 billion of dry capitol in the market, representing tremendous opportunities for small and midsized companies.

CGI Federal: Still a Consultant

The final speaker of this heavy hitter panel was Tim Hurlebaus. Thirty-one years ago, Tim started at AMS. He considered himself a consultant then and he still does now, heading up $12 billion CGI Federal. Over the years, the company has done over 100 acquisitions – including Stanley in 2010. Some of their service areas include Cyber, Constituent engagement and Asset Management. Their clients include EPA, State Department, Army and Navy.

Inspiring Discussion. Three Necessities.

After each speaker presented for 10 to 15 minutes, they all came up to participate in the panel discussion. Nick took questions from the audience on topics such as how the panel executives handle internal and external communications, the disbanding of FedBizOpps, whether relationships are more important than technology and what makes these senior leaders optimistic.

All agreed on these three necessities for success:

  1. Focus on customers
  2. Perform on every contract
  3. Be ready to serve the government’s modernization effort.

These actions will be key in 2020 – and beyond.