Corinne Minton-Package is director of IBM’s business strategy and a communications leader for the public sector business within general business services. She manages business strategies in relation to IBM’s federal, state and local government customers.
Minton-Package is part of a large organization that provides healthcare, cloud, analytics, infrastructure, security and additional services to the government space. She recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about her internal and external communications responsibilities, and where IBM is set to grow with all the company brings to the table.
ExecutiveBiz: What elements comprise an effective business strategy for contractors providing services to the government in this budget environment?
Corinne Minton-Package: You have to start with understanding what your competencies are and how they apply to your customer’s mission. If we’re talking about that internally, the first thing that we think about when we’re working on a new communications effort inside the public sector part of the business that I support, is being clear about who the audiences are. From there, we spend a lot of time making sure that we’re very clear about the mission and understand gory details. We make sure that we understand how the environment is changing around that audience or that customer.
We’re living through a time of rapid and pretty significant change. That affects not only the kinds of problems that you’re trying to solve, but the environment also impacts the kinds of partners that you select and what your goals should be. I spend a lot of time making sure that my team and I are clear about both the micro trends and the macro trends: everything from the impact of globalization on the workforce of the future to whether blogs are the best way to reach out audiences. We have to stay on top of the forms of social media and communication.
ExecutiveBiz: Do you work on the company’s general announcements in addition to social media outlets?
Corinne Minton-Package: I focus mostly on public sector. There are other folks who do more general announcements, but we do run a blog site through the Center for the Business of Government focused on ways that the federal government can save money while improving their mission. We’ve got a couple associated Twitter feeds that a group of us keep fresh and exciting.
ExecutiveBiz: IBM has a public and private sector presence – what commercial capabilities do you apply in the public sector?
Corinne Minton-Package: I think that’s a really great question, particularly now, when our clients in the federal space are looking at pretty significantly reduced budgets in 2013. A lot of the changes that our federal customers are going to make can be informed by the experience that commercial organizations, including IBM, have had already undergone: big changes in the way that organizations manage their supply chain, their financial operations or their IT infrastructure.
Commercial organizations have become leaner and more efficient. They have given us a lot of great lessons that we can apply in the federal space to help our clients identify ways to consolidate, centralize, make things a bit more efficient and, frankly, less costly, while still providing outcomes that are as good, if not better.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you keep apace with all that IBM is doing and its technologies?
Corinne Minton-Package: I’m working in an organization that has a pretty powerful and significant research capability. We’ve got some really brilliant folks and, basically, the largest private university exists within IBM. Everything from that “university” and Watson, to our teams on the ground who are helping clients solve real problems.
Part of my job is to identify the things that can be replicated and find ways to communicate internally so that we can share our successes with other customers internally and externally. I didn’t start as a communications person. I started as one of our team members doing delivery work. That’s helped me a lot. If I were starting from scratch, this job would be a lot harder.
This is a big place. But, I think that that challenge of trying to find a way to balance the amount of your day that you’re spending absorbing new information and seeking out new information compared to acting on that information is a challenge that a lot of people in a lot of professions are facing. It’s just one of the outcomes of implementing technology and better connecting all of us with each other.
ExecutiveBiz: How long have you been a part of IBM’s leadership team and what challenges have you faced in your time there?
Corinne Minton-Package: I’ve been with the organization for 15 years. I’ve been in this role for the last two years. For me, the challenge is trying to find more time in each day to focus on what’s really important. It’s easy to let something that is urgent and needs to be done quickly overtake your day. I spend a lot of time trying to make sure that my calendar and my priorities are lined up.
ExecutiveBiz: IBM’s offerings span so many areas, but is there a specific area in which the company expects growth in the coming years? How will it pursue that growth?
Corinne Minton-Package: Within the public sector, and specifically the federal part of our business, we’ve made a lot of investments around our federal data center capabilities. We have a FISMA-compliant data center that we think provides the kind of support that a lot of our clients need, whether its building a new system with a quick Dev/Test provision, or something that feels more like business process outsourcing. We can provide everything from IT application hosting to Dev/Test, to business process outsourcing, where clients pay for outcomes and not all of the activity in-between.
We think that’s a significant area where we have a lot of core competency built up through many years, supporting commercial organizations that we can use to help the federal government both improve their outcomes and find cost savings.
Beyond that, certainly we think analytics. Not just what should the systems look like, but how can all of our clients’ organizations use the data inside the systems to make better decisions faster is a significant area for us. Not only because we’ve created some really tremendous breakthroughs in processing unstructured data and natural language through Watson, but also because we have some great solutions around ways that clients can be driving value out of big data. So, huge streams of data that our clients need time to process is something that our teams can jump in and support. Again, using data to make decisions is another big growth area for us.
ExecutiveBiz: Some of the big topics the government is dealing with today span healthcare, infrastructure, security, cloud and more recently analytics. Which of these areas presents the biggest challenge and opportunity to improve government efficiency?
Corinne Minton-Package: They’re all challenges, just slightly different kinds of challenges. All of them are the result of either a changing mission or another kind of macro trend, impacting an old style process. The way that we view our capability in supporting our clients who are trying to change those processes is bringing our best commercially derived, and made federally applicable, abilities to bear.
We’ve got a great set of capabilities around IT infrastructure consolidation and ways to make the operations and management part of our clients’ budgets more efficient and effective to allow them to focus more of their time and energy on the new requirements that they need to meet. The same is true for security and cloud. Analytics and healthcare are kind of slightly different activities.
Demographic trends, an aging population, the application of better technology and keeping people alive longer all impact healthcare. It’s a whole different set of challenges. Most recently, we did exciting work with the Department of Veterans Administration, supporting them as they addressed a challenge with processing applications for benefits to veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. One of the challenges that they had been most of the applications was coming in via paper. They had a backlog that they weren’t processing as quickly as they wanted to. It delayed benefit determinations and information back to veterans.
IBM supported the VA with creating a system that would allow online initial applications, scanned the existing paper backlog, which helped support Veterans Administration employees, focusing their time on the challenging cases. It not only improved the processing speed, but also gave us better outcomes for veterans. Their determinations happen faster, and they were able to receive their benefits more quickly.
There are lots of applications across government where there’s interaction with citizens, and multiple pieces of data in different formats – structured and non-structured – have to come together to help someone make a decision. Those are areas where IBM can add a lot of value.