Joe Chenelle serves as managing director of Accenture‘s U.S. defense and intelligence portfolio and will lead the company’s work on a Defense Contract Management Agency information technology project.
Accenture’s work will focus on analytics, work flow and streamlining reporting so DCMA can better track the costs and schedules of company’s reporting contract progress to DCMA’s earned value management center.
Chenelle brings 21 years of systems integration and consulting experience to the project including a lead role on the Defense Logistics Agency’s business systems modernization contract which included the transformation of 35-year old legacy systems.
In his conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Chenelle discusses Accenture’s plan to complete the work for the project, how his experience with the DLA has prepared him for the DCMA contract and how Accenture Federal is primed to grow in the upcoming years.
ExecutiveBiz: What does the Defense Contract Management Agency do and how is the contract with Accenture Federal meant to help them do it?
Chenelle: DCMA is responsible for ensuring that DoD contractors working at home and abroad are reporting their cost and schedules accurately. It is governed by the Earned Value Management Center, established by the National Defense Industry Association. Our contract is to help create a framework that standardizes contract management and metrics by deploying analytics, improving their workflow and streamlining the processes. In the future, DCMA wants to provide more consistency, standardization and automation in their review processes versus what is today largely an on-site or paper exercise.
For example, a key benefit would include the ability for contractors to submit electronic reports. This will reduce the cycle times and increase the throughput and consistency of what the agency does.
ExecutiveBiz: Could you speak a little more about earned value management, did that come from the NDIA and when did they establish it?
Chenelle: EVMS is an integrated set of policies and procedures to support program management. EVM evaluates cost, schedule and scope components in a single system to forecast potential performance problems. Effective EV systems should contain decision enhancing tools to enable more consistent risk management. While EVM has been around since the 1960's, it didn't gain traction in the DoD until the early 1990's. In the commercial world, especially industrials and in Government, processes and tools continue to evolve today. The department has an Earned Value Center that reviews more than $1 trillion of annual defense spending around the world.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the challenges that DCMA faces in managing these contracts?
Chenelle: Today federal agencies are facing cost reductions, sequestration and ongoing budget challenges across our government with demands on auditability and compliance.. The government has existing contracts that continue over multiple years that must be reviewed. Each and every year government agencies also continue to award new contracts that also must be reviewed. That's quite a workload.
It's a never ending cycle. This should be a win-win for contractors and the Government to get greater standardization, greater understanding of a process and to automate processes for increased visibility. The design also calls for a Web-based portal that should streamline operations and give online access to each program's performance.
ExecutiveBiz: Is there not currently an IT solution that DCMA uses to track these contracts?
Chenelle: Internally there are management systems. What this contract will is increase automation and create the opportunity for Web-based access to information and electronic submissions. I love filing my taxes online now. I love when I get get my license plate stickers in the mail by just going online. These are examples of automation of other government processes that were previously more manual in nature.
ExecutiveBiz: For this contract, how are you going to go about it? What is your plan and who at Accenture is going to be working on this?
Chenelle: First ll, I give the DCMA credit for undertaking this project. This is Stephen Covey: “Begin with the end in mind“. This is a well-developed enterprise plan that will allow DCMA to align the goals of their business processes and build a framework that provides business process standardization. Outcomes will include improved business workflows, increased efficiency through Web-based access and better business decisions.
This is modernization that should provide efficiencies for the agency and for those that they are auditing as well as for the taxpayer. DCMA should be able to reduce the cycle times on these individual contract reviews, get better throughput, and be able to more closely review other contracts that may have compliance concerns or just as part of their normal operations.
ExecutiveBiz: Do you have any specifics on the analytics program that you wanted to share or is it too early to tell on that?
Chenelle: It's a little too early. We're in the plan analyze phase, so we are using Microsoft technologies; including the CRM engine and SharePoint. DCMA asked for lead Microsoft Certified Architects as part of this plan analyze. They've asked for people certified in SQL server. They've asked for people that have 20 years of first-hand experience with analytics projects and that those working on the project be certified as part of the Oracle Partner Network. Those are the type of technologies that they're asking for and are part of this assessment.
ExecutiveBiz: What work has Accenture done in the past with the Federal Government developing technology solutions, from the ground up that revamps an agency's operational performance?
Chenelle: Personally I've been involved with the Defense Logistics Agency and they undertook an effort starting in 1999 called Business Systems Modernization which was the transformation of 35-year old legacy systems, to a Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) platform with automated forecasting and planning, all the way through procurement to order fulfillment.
DLA had tried multiple times to replace some of their legacy systems, but were challenged over three or four decades by legislative requirements regulatory and the amount of customization desired. There isn't a COTS product that can 100% meet business needs. They also, over 40 years of customizing some of their legacy systems had to then go through and look at all those requirements and how to best use business process re-engineering to not replicate 40 years of a legacy system into a COTS product.
DLA really went through a stringent process, governed by enterprise tenets and led by the Vice Director, Ray Archer and subsequently by the Director, Keith Lippert. Their mandate: they wanted to change their business processes not the COTS. They examined all their business processes, their legacy systems, their supply chains and really focused on automation and standardization, versus finding a reason to customize to make things like they were before.
That requires a tremendous amount of governance and leadership. That requires a tremendous amount of guts in an environment where there were two wars going on and there's never a good time to do a business transformation. But they decided to do it and do it successfully. DLA has eight supply chains managing 5.2 million items and $46 billion in sales. There's no supply chain or company in the world that has the challenges that an organization like the Defense Logistics Agency does. They have more warehousing space than anybody in the world, other than UPS and Fedex. They have to go where the troops are going to be, not a standard supply chain at all.
They're a unique organization with unique challenges, and Accenture was an integral part of helping DLA transform through management consulting solutions and modern technology..
ExecutiveBiz: Having done a contract like that, how does that prepare you as a leader of the Defense and Intelligence Agencies practice? How does that prepare you for something like this that is on a smaller scale than that contract?
Chenelle: DCMA is smaller scale project, but when you look at available technologies and tools you'll see that Accenture is one of the best systems integrators. IDC recently reported that Accenture is the the number one Oracle integrator in the world. I've been working on enterprise resource planning systems around the world since March 1995. I've been working on global, complex systems for 21, going on 22 years. Accenture has a very rigorous methodology, updated annually based on actuals to evaluate requirements then design, build, test, convert, and run major enterprise transformations. We're bringing all of this experience to work for DCMA.
When you're looking at building that framework and that blueprint there is a methodology to gathering those requirements and then there's a methodology to evaluating the requirements and tools against those requirements to get true operational outcomes.
ExecutiveBiz: How does this contract benefit the Defense and Intelligence practice at Accenture, the practices you lead?
Chenelle: I think this is a great contract. First of all it has a win-win to it: contractors are going to get a benefit, and the agency's going to be a benefit. Earned value is something that we use as part of our systems integration projects, so it's an ability to check in real time what the status isversus a plan and be able to react and adapt before you run into a situation where you have some kind of cost overrun or negative result.
For me and for our defense business, we don't want to do simply “man“ a project. We want to do work that is transformational and really produces a unique business outcome and ultimately creates a win-win relationship with our clients.
ExecutiveBiz: What are you most excited about going forward, whether it be this contract or something else Accenture Federal is planning on doing in this upcoming year?
Chenelle: With Accenture Federal, I'll tell you from a Defense standpoint we're growing. The market's flat. We're growing. We have tremendous opportunities at the Army, Navy, Air Force, defense agencies. Our Intel business is growing, and we're also starting a new military health practice.
Our goal is to bring our commercial health experience to Federal work to lead and deliver clinical transformational solutions, to integrate electronic health systems, to enable the timely transfer of benefits and to create a united health record from an active duty soldier to a Veteran. These heroes need to receive timely health care. When injured or retired, they need benefits for themselves and their families. The federal government also requires the back office transformational pieces to meet the tremendous demand for healthcare. Industry analysts will say we are, if not the best, one of the top two system integrators in the world, and you could probably tell where my vote would be.