Q&A with IBM's Chuck Prow: 'Focus on Performance Improvement Activities to Improve Outcomes'

IBM's Chuck Prow

With 30 years of experience in the professional services business, Chuck Prow knows what it takes to stay on top of a constantly changing market. As the general manager of IBM’s Global Business Services for the Public Sector, Prow is constantly realigning his team’s goals and missions to stay one step ahead of the ever-evolving realities and keep providing his clients with efficient performance and innovative services.

Recently, Prow shared with The New New Internet some of the secrets to his success. Here, he sheds light on the ways in which he adapts to this dynamic industry, the challenges associated with these changes and his opinions on today’s most promising trends in the contractor markets.

The New New Internet:  We talked to you a couple of years ago and discussed the six ways to drive value and innovation.  Do you have any other elements you would like to add to that list now two years later?

Chuck Prow:  There has been a lot of change in the last two years. The thing that has most permanently changed is the reality that governments have to operate in a much more cost conscious way.  I am very certain this is not a short-term phenomenon, and that this is going to be with us for some period of time now.  What we’ve spent a lot of time on here at IBM is trying to work with our clients in government to identify how they can continue to focus on improving mission effectiveness while continuing to drive down costs.  They involve IT optimization, supply chain management, business analytics and several other approaches.  In summary, this is a focus on performance improvement activities to improve outcomes.  Too often in supporting our clients, the focus is on the inputs, if you will, which is the hours and the other aspects of providing services to clients in a traditional way. We [continue to urge our clients to] focus on outcomes.  We add our greatest value when we really focus on the missions of our clients and the outcomes our clients expect from those missions.  Then, we take commercial best practices to apply them to the customers’ mission. 

The New New Internet:  In your current role, what are some of the everyday challenges you meet?

Chuck Prow:  This is a very dynamic market. As someone who has been in professional services for 30 years, it’s actually very exciting.  The market is under significant pressure as we’ve already discussed, and probably the greatest challenge is to continue to stay focused on our people, continue to stay focused on developing our people. [I spend a significant amount of my time] working with our team to continue to adjust the way we approach the market and the new market realities. 

The New New Internet:  You’ve been with IBM for a while now. What are some of the reasons you decided to join the company?  What’s great about the company?

Chuck Prow:  I entered IBM through an acquisition in 2002.  Prior to that, I was with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and I’ve spent my entire career in professional services.  Back in the early days, we had very limited capabilities other than our human capital to bring to our clients.  What is exciting about IBM is the enormous wealth of capability; whether it be through our research division, whether it be through our software products, whether it be through our consulting assets to really change the face of government — again, applying all of these great capabilities to our clients’ mission. Point two is back to people: IBM is 400,000 of the most creative and innovative people that I know I’ve ever been around in my professional career. 

Finally, the IBM Corporation is 100 percent committed to its values; whether it is serving our clients, focusing on our people or providing the innovation necessary to change our markets.  This is IBM’s centennial year, and as an example of the fabric of the culture of the organization, we  marked the our 100th anniversary with a ‘Day of Service’ where IBMers around the world supported their local communities in whatever way they thought was appropriate. What makes IBM unique is again the enormous wealth of capabilities we can bring to our clients, including the innovation of our people and our values.

The New New Internet:  If you were to pick three of the hottest markets for government contractors, what would they be?

Chuck Prow:  It’s interesting; this whole notion of improving the mission effectiveness of our clients at lower costs will drive alternate computing and operational models.  Anything we can do to improve the mission effectiveness of our clients at lower costs by bringing commercial best practice capabilities – that is the first category of capabilities. The second category of capabilities is around analytics. We are working with our clients to provide an analytic framework again that focuses on the outcomes of government and the outcomes that government processes provide to both corporations and citizens.

Finally, the third category is collaboration, where we are finding ways to knit together government processes and organization seamlessly at a lower cost — again with the focus on mission effectiveness.  All three of those types of capabilities are really underscored by the whole notion of security and cyber security.  Providing these capabilities and improved mission outcomes [to our clients] while staying focused on security and cybersecurity is paramount. 

 

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