Angela Carrington currently serves as a vice president and partner in IBM’s public sector consulting practice as the industry leader for the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Courts, State and USAID.
Carrington has over 25 years experience in the areas of project management, financial management, procurement and contracts management, budgeting and accounting and is a 15 year IBM company veteran.
She develops financial management system offerings to solve client needs and her work helps IBM’s clients obtain clean opinions, green ratings on Office of Management and Budget scorecards and compliance with federal regulations.
In her conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Carrington discusses how building a Smarter Government is possible even in the current budget environment and IBM’s current involvement with multiple integration and implementation projects for financial and procurement systems that can enable a transformative delivery of IT services.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you describe your position at IBM and explain what makes the company unique in the public sector?
Angela Carrington: I am the Vice-President in charge of leading IBM’s go-to-market teams across a diverse set of Federal agencies, including Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Courts, Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. I get to work with clients every day to help them better achieve their mission and to find ways to lower their costs – it’s part of something we call Smarter Government at IBM.
What makes IBM unique is Innovation. Innovation is part of the company’s DNA and there is a strong legacy of partnership with our public sector clients to bring real innovation to bear in solving their toughest challenges. IBM is bringing innovative solutions – and is a recognized market leader – in analytics, cloud computing, IT infrastructure, and managed services. Our consultants can combine innovation with deep industry expertise to help clients in critical areas such as financial management, supply chain management, strategy, and human capital. IBM invests billions of dollars every year in research and development, and since 2001, approximately $6 billion annually in research dollars has been contributed to some of our public sector initiatives.
Since you asked about unique solutions, I want to take the opportunity to mention an IBM solution that some may have seen featured on Jeopardy! – Watson. Watson is a cognitive computing system that defeated two past champions on the show in 2011. While Watson’s victory on Jeopardy! was a stunning feat, it was just the beginning of a new way of thinking about how technology can help us live and work better.
Watson is beginning to be seen on a smaller scale in Public Sector, for example in the health care area. The key to Watson is that it’s a solution that can help our clients solve some of the issues and help inform decisions, Watson understands natural language so it can hear a question and formulate responses, breaking down the barrier between people and machines and generating hypotheses and insights that people can use immediately.
Watson is also at the forefront to addressing finance challenges. IBM is partnering with financial institutions to teach Watson the business of banking. The ability to consume information to identify patterns and make informed hypotheses make Watson an excellent solution to help make informed decisions about investment choices, trading patterns and risk management.
I’m very excited about Watson and its underlying analytics technology can help our clients solve many of the challenges they face.
ExecutiveBiz: With the current budget uncertainties, has financial management become more of a focus for the Federal government as they try to do more with less?
Carrington: Doing more with less is on everyone’s mind this year – the question is how is it possible to build a Smarter Government despite the budget uncertainties ? IBM has a proven track-record of solutions to help our clients manage through challenging budgets and using these times as an opportunity to transform and to deliver better mission outcomes in the process. Key to both is standardization. We don’t face the current budget situation with trepidation – we see it as an opportunity to provide clients with the services they need to meet their mission and reduce costs. We have positioned ourselves to provide solutions that show our clients how they can save money and be more efficient.
As an example, IBM is currently in the midst of several projects positioned to help our clients that have components or bureaus, offices or systems operating independently of one another.. By consolidating and standardizing we’ve been able to save our clients time and money. Standardization and consolidation are often key factors to cost savings.
ExecutiveBiz: Could you describe some of your work with commercial off- the-shelf technologies?
Carrington: Most of my work has been in the financial management area. I’ve implemented large financial systems at various Federal agencies, using Oracle, SAP and Momentum. My main area of focus has been financial management COTS packages.
Let me take the time now to talk about our financial system implementation project at the Department of Justice (DOJ). As you know, DOJ is a large organization consisting of multiple Component organizations; including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Asset Forfeiture Program (AFP), U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
IBM’s involvement with the project began at the end of 2005 when our nations largest law enforcement agency, DOJ, hired us to implement the CGI Momentum product – both the financial management and acquisitions modules. When we began work on the project, DOJ had seven separate financial systems and the future of the Department depended heavily on the implementation of a single integrated financial management system.
We began with the focus on what we call Foundation Build, and that was the first key milestone for the program as we were implementing a COTS software, we needed to configure it to meet DOJ’s standard business processes; so we created Foundation Build then to be deployed to other departmental components. Prior to Foundation Build, every Component had its own system and processes, reports, interfaces. What we did was work across DOJ to establish a standard for each Component to use which included processes, interfaces and reports. That didn’t mean each Component didn’t have unique requirements – and we were also able to work with them to configure their own unique processes, interfaces and reports. But it does mean that there is standardization across the Department, which is one of the main advantages of this implementation.
I’d also like to make a point about cost control. When agencies implement COTS packages, it is important to avoid or minimize customizations, because when software is customized, you spend more in the end from an operations and maintenance perspective, and you often lose the advantages that come with standardizing processes. The key to controlling software implementation costs for a COTS implementation is to standardize and take advantage of the baseline package.
Where UFMS really makes a difference for DOJ is in terms of being able to report more accurately, more timely, be able to interface with other systems – it brings the ability for DOJ to more accurately forecast in terms of expending resources and drill down into programs to look for additional efficiencies and additional ways of either avoiding cost or to be more effective in how they spend resources.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the contracts be it financial management or what have you that you are currently working on that you want to highlight?
Carrington: The project I just mentioned, the Department of Justice Unified Financial Management System, is really a great example of how IBM can help agencies improve their performance through the use of financial management tools. This program and its leadership team have been the recipient of several industry awards over the past few years, including recognition as a Computerworld Honors Program Laureate, the Federal 100 Award, and others. The program has also been featured in multiple conferences and industry events such as the Association for Government Accountants (AGA).
In addition, another area I would like to highlight is agency transformation projects. As an example, there has been a lot of press about U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and transformation, because it’s a high priority on the President’s agenda and immigration reform has been a hot topic that’s been discussed for years. One of the CIS transformation initiatives that we are working on is to take the agency from a manual paper-based system to an automated (wizard-based) system similar to what the IRS has done with taxes. And one of the interesting aspects of this work is that we have recently moved to an agile-based approach, using agile technology. We have teams that work together and that has been widely successful to the point that other agencies are actually looking at what CIS is doing and wanting to model it.
ExecutiveBiz: Going forward this year and beyond, what are you most excited about?
Carrington: The opportunity to bring real innovation to our clients is tremendously exciting. I’m also excited about the IBM’s opportunity for growth in this market. We have invested in our solutions and we are well-positioned for to grow, even during this time of great uncertainty. No question that there are a lot of challenges, but have are seeing the results of our strategy in new contracts, new innovative ideas and new solutions such as Watson, analytics, and cloud computing.
I understand that our confidence in a time of fiscal uncertainty may be surprising, but I get excited every day at the chance to call a government executive and know that they want to talk to IBM. Just working for a company that has such strong brand recognition really makes my job a lot easier. We have some great services and great solutions and there has been a lot of interest.
ExecutiveBiz: When did you start at IBM?
Carrington: I started in ’97 at Coopers & Lybrand and we merged with Price Waterhouse. We became PwC and IBM acquired PwC in 2002. So technically, I’ve been with IBM for 11 years but because of the acquisitions its been 16 years.
ExecutiveBiz: Is there anything you’d like to add to the interview about any of IBM’s work or your work in the past?
Carrington: IBM has been a market leader in innovation, as well as large infrastructure work. We’ve also been widely successfully in financial management implementations. There are not a lot of successful financial management implementations in Government and we have actually been involved with several of them – I mentioned Justice, others include: Department of Education, Department of Energy; Customs and Border Patrol, and U.S. Agency for International Development that implemented a worldwide financial management system. IBM has been very successful in helping our clients meet their financial challenges.
You asked earlier about doing more with less and making every dollar count. You need to be able to pay your bills and keep track of the money you have. IBM can help clients with the information infrastructure they need to manage their organizations more effectively. And we can also help agencies with their mission objectives. A lot of the technology and solutions that we offer really can help from a law enforcement and criminal justice perspective to support its critical and urgent missions to combat crime, reduce the flow of drugs, respond quickly to threats of terrorism, and support our justice system. And as our world becomes more mobile and more socially networked, there is also an array of solutions we are offering in terms of social media and being able to interconnect with organizations, markets, and governments. It is an interesting time to in the Public Sector, and an exciting time to be part of the IBM team.