CSRA‘s journey as an independent company since its late 2015 separation from Computer Sciences Corp. included many moves to position itself in the market as a primary partner for federal agencies and industry vendors seeking to offer new technologies in the government market.
Of note, CSRA held a pair of Emerging Technology Day events and an internal “Hack-A-Thon” event to experiment with and learn about products in the marketplace, plus opened an information technology delivery center in Bossier City, Louisiana.
ExecutiveBiz recently spoke to Chief Information Officer John Dancy for this conversation to get his perspective on CSRA’s efforts to become the government’s testbed for new technologies, goals and strategies behind its Bossier City hub and how the company identifies potential industry partners.
ExecutiveBiz: What federal technology trend are you paying primary attention to?
John Dancy: The one that predominates every CIO’s thinking is cybersecurity and the need to increase protection levels of internal and customer networks. As we formed the company, I sat down with our CEO Larry Prior and talked about our strategy for standing up an IT capability for a $5 billion company. Together we decided to use the stand-up as an opportunity to move CSRA as far along as we could down the next-gen IT path as possible.
With cybersecurity, I completely had to rethink how we approach it as a company. In this effort, we’ve moved 40 percent of our workload to either software-as-a-service products or cloud products. I spend a great deal of time evaluating toolsets that bring applicability not only for on premise workloads but also how to extend those capabilities out into the cloud.
Our software and the systems set-up were done with our partner companies with an eye towards the federal market. As a federal contractor, we are held to the same security standards and protocols as government agencies.
Many of our product implementation decisions have been made in compliance with federal regulations and requirements in mind, but also with leveraging next-gen technology and overarching cybersecurity architecture that protects our on premise and cloud workloads.
ExecutiveBiz: Which customers and market areas is CSRA looking to grow in through the new center in Bossier City?
John Dancy: We designed the Integrated Technology Center to essentially become a self-contained federal computing environment. We are looking to grow capabilities in that center that represent and benefit all of our clients and offerings — everything from security operation centers, network operation centers to agile software development capability.
We do continuous monitoring of government data centers and networks. We also have a significant presence with some of our software providers in Bossier City, so we can do maintenance with enterprise systems out of that center. The whole idea in standing the center up was to provide an advantage to federal agencies. Often we see that a contract contains a requirement to have a place of performance in the D.C. area.
We found significant cost advantages to the federal government to locate work teams both inside and outside of the Beltway. We have been so pleased with the workforce and the high levels of technical talent that we have been able to hire and locate in Bossier City. We’re building something special and we look forward to continue offering excellence to our customers inside and outside the Beltway.
ExecutiveBiz: What role do you see CSRA and industry at large playing and facilitating in that process?
John Dancy: Going back to that position we made during separation, where we said we’re essentially going to function as “customer zero.” We’re adopting and proving the viability of software-as-a-service and cybersecurity products and building strong use cases for cloud adoption, application modernization and SaaS products to conduct business.
CSRA is taking the lead in setting itself up as the testbed for many of these technologies. We leverage our talent so often we take the same people driving the high rate of next-gen and tech adoption for CSRA and put them to work on government contracts. Our customers get the benefit of our lessons learned and our experience in using those systems for ourselves, in driving that same rate of adoption and technology insertion in the government agencies.
ExecutiveBiz: What tools and partners does CSRA look to bring in through its Emerging Technology Days?
John Dancy: We are always thinking about what is next, coming down the road and figuring out how we can deliver that now. The trends we are seeing from some of our federal clients and our technology partners run the gamut. We have large strategic partners that we engage with regularly such as AWS, ServiceNow and Salesforce; but we also look at smaller companies and help them get their niche products to market to help our customer’s needs.
Often the partners we look at have products that drive a higher rate of automation and efficiency into IT operations. We also look at products that have been around cybersecurity and detecting insider threats. We see ourselves as a bridge, helping cutting edge companies understand and adapt their products for the federal market.
For instance, one company called Perspica has some interesting capabilities in pinpointing and highlighting anomalies before they become issues that cause downtime. We’re helping pilot that product on one of our customer programs.
Another area we are looking at is artificial intelligence and its applicability in government. I think about the drive for cost efficiency and improved security in whether or not AI can help deliver that in our environment. If you think about projected boom of IoT devices, the challenge for CIOs will be the complexity of securing and managing those endpoints.
Combine that with a growing number of foreign state and industrial cyber criminals, and every CIO has their hands full. AI is a promising technology for dealing with those challenges.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you see CSRA’S industry partnerships evolving?
John Dancy: Quite frankly, our partners are the lifeblood of our company and absolutely vital to our success in delivering technology to the federal government. Our Emerging Technology Partner program is one key ways for the portfolio to stay fresh and relevant.
Larry, myself and other leaders spend a significant amount of time in Seattle and Silicon Valley talking with technology partners and potential technology partners to evaluate where the market is going and get a good idea of what capabilities are coming. We are bridging that gap between partners, what’s new and what’s next, and figuring out how to deliver that today to the government agencies. We definitely see them as an extension of us.
As a pure-play federal IT company, it’s cool to be able to understand our customers’ missions, stresses and pressures they are under to deliver on that mission and to have all these really smart technology people and tie us to the partner. We get to be creative and imaginative to look at somebody’s company and deliver some innovations to our clients. It is what keeps me coming to work every day.