Rocky Thurston leads Accenture“™s Department of Homeland Security business portfolio, having responsibility for helping Accenture grow its DHS business and technology offerings.
The Air Force veteran and former Wyle executive recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about his new position with Accenture, industry growth and the company“™s approach to serving DHS and other federal clients.
ExecutiveBiz: When did you join Accenture and what do your duties there consist of?
Rocky Thurston: I just recently joined Accenture in January. I am responsible for leading, growing and delivering Accenture services and technologies to the Department of Homeland Security.
I“™m very pleased to be a part of Accenture. It“™s a great company that I“™ve admired for years. I consider it an honor to be asked to help with this part of the organization. The people are extremely talented and I“™m looking forward to doing great things with them.
ExecutiveBiz: Do you have any goals in this new position?
Rocky Thurston: Our business with the DHS is aligned with Accenture Federal Services. Our goal, as part of the company“™s federal services sector, is to help grow the business and become a significant market player. We also strive to be a contractor of choice for DHS and its components.
ExecutiveBiz: How has your background in the military and working with consulting firms helped you get where you are today?
Rocky Thurston: I spent time as an engineer in the Air Force. While there, I helped design, build and test software upgrades to radars and weapon systems. It was an exciting experience and it gave me the fundamental understanding of systems development and integration skills necessary to build and deploy the complex systems we have in today“™s federal environment.
More importantly, I think time serving in the U.S. military gave me a sense of mission and duty. It helped me understand the importance of serving our constituents and our country.
I believe our work in the federal contracting community as a whole is contributing to the fabric of this country. I“™ve often been kidded about my enthusiasm and passion. I suppose it“™s because I care so deeply about what we do and how we do it. I truly believe in Accenture“™s mission as much as I believe in the mission of the clients we serve.
ExecutiveBiz: What fundamental elements does Accenture focus on to support the DHS?
Rocky Thurston: We focus on three things: outstanding delivery, innovation, and agility.
Outstanding delivery means bringing the very best talent to execute programs on time and on budget. Each of our employees, including our senior leadership, is trained in industry best principles and methodologies to give our clients an exceptional experience. Accenture“™s delivery reputation and execution is frankly better than any place that I“™ve seen.
Accenture is also a worldwide leader in bringing innovative technologies and thought leadership to our clients. We connect people, information and agencies to protect our homeland and borders, enforce our laws and facilitate secure travel and trade.
We insert innovation into every delivery program to constantly and continuously look for ways to drive efficiencies and improve performance. We combine delivery and innovation with responsiveness and agility to ensure we“™re helping our clients achieve their mission in the U.S. and around the world.
ExecutiveBiz: The company recently won a biometrics contract with DHS. What does this win mean for Accenture and does it represent a growth area for the company?
Rocky Thurston: We support the DHS US-VISIT program. It is currently one of the world“™s largest biometrics program. This program itself represents a premier client within Accenture globally. It“™s a perfect example of how Accenture is helping our nation secure and safeguard its borders.
Biometrics capabilities in that program are critical to DHS, but also represent a growth area for Accenture across the globe. It“™s a booming technical growth area in many countries and it“™s a key pillar to Accenture“™s public safety strategy. We are innovating fingerprint, facial, retinal and many more biometric techniques every day.
For example, we have a biometric and identity management project that we call Face in the Crowd, which is deployed throughout the U.K. We have another program called Fast Passage, which is used in terminals at Schiphol, an Amsterdam airport, and the Netherlands. We also help run the largest biometric identity program in India.
ExecutiveBiz: Where does Accenture expect growth and where do you see growth in the market as a whole?
Rocky Thurston: The federal market space is an exciting space to be in and it will be for years to come. Companies are looking for and finding ways to offer services and technologies that will help our clients take cost out or consolidate functions to deal with tighter budget demands.
More specifically, DHS is facing more complex criminal activity, larger volumes of data, mobile workforces and increased agency interoperability challenges. Therefore, we“™re seeing more and more demand in the areas of big data, analytics, identity management, mobile solutions and cloud computing.
ExecutiveBiz: What role can technology play to aid agencies serve their mission?
Rocky Thurston: I“™ve always been a firm believer that technology enables a mission. The public and private sectors continue to have real scientific breakthroughs. When joined together, they“™re able to develop and produce highly intelligent, very small and adaptable systems to solve mission objections such as big data.
With big data, the question is how do you find little nuggets of information or tie pieces of data together through terabytes and petabytes of data to make an informed decision? It takes this continual evolution of technology to do so.
I believe it“™s critical to continue to invest and develop advanced technologies well before they are needed. It“™s imperative to reuse existing systems where possible in order to reduce uncertainty associated with schedule and cost.
Technology reuse would also significantly reduce program deployment times. Building a technology roadmap that leverages existing systems and invests in the future are the principles behind things like cloud computing and will serve our clients well in these trying budget times.
ExecutiveBiz: How does a company set itself apart in the current budget environment?
Rocky Thurston: Companies need to put the needs of their customers first. The customer“™s goals, their objectives and mission needs are paramount to the success of programs that we, as contractors, serve. Accenture puts the needs of our customers first.
The second thing strong companies can do is find ways to differentiate themselves in this increasingly competitive commodity driven market. A company like Accenture is always building innovative solutions, looking to hire first class talent, providing services to our customers at a reasonable price and differentiating us from the market.
Lastly, there“™s no place for non-delivery in this market. Successful companies have to build their reputation based on quality delivery, must follow through on our commitments and exceed expectations every time. The government cannot afford scheduled delays and cost overruns, period. During these difficult budgeting times it“™s imperative to ensure high performance every time.