In that role, the former U.S. Army officer and former leader of Booz Allen’s Army business focuses on mission areas including C2ISR, cloud computing, social media, data science, enterprise technology, and many more.
Messer recently caught up with ExecutiveBiz to discuss her and Booz Allen’s emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship, the importance of maintaining focus on a strategic long-term view, and how to unlock ‘a-ha!’ moments for her federal customers.
Angie Messer: I had a very a diverse experience before coming to Booz Allen. I served six years in the regular Army and another seven years in the Reserves. I am lucky to have lived in not only Europe, but also in Australia. Australia is where I really launched my civil career in sales and in marketing.
Coming back to the U.S., I entered several different industries, such as the learning and software development industry. This exposed me to small business, to the franchise model, and to the whole education and learning industry. I even had the opportunity to co-create a startup company that developed learning software.
So with my background in the military, sales and marketing, advertising, software, and technology as well as experience in running different types of businesses — it just so happened that Booz Allen had opportunities and needed someone who could bring this type of expertise to help our military with their training, using leading-edge technology but with a ‘business model’ than traditional education. This was really a wonderful entry point to my career at Booz Allen.
ExecutiveBiz: What are your current main objectives and how do those objectives fit into the organization at large?
Angie Messer: I am part of our Strategic Innovation Group (SIG), which is an exciting new organization that reaffirms Booz Allen’s commitment to innovation. Booz Allen is celebrating its hundredth year anniversary this year. We have this long of a successful track record because we’re passionate about innovative problem-solving. We have been focusing on the SIG, which is one of my highest priorities, over the past year. When you live in a world of perpetual change, and considering what the federal government is going through right now, the need to reconfigure ideas, processes and technologies has never been greater.
Now is the time for more innovation, so my priority is working with leaders to fuse together diverse people, tools, skills, technologies and processes from across our company to re-invigorate Booz Allen’s commitment to entrepreneurship. This equips us to capitalize on the relationships and interdependencies that we have in the marketplace. The SIG is accelerating our ability to help our clients with their challenges, by deconstructing those challenges, and creating innovative solutions to bring even greater value to our client’s missions.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you manage your internal in your efforts to stay at the cutting edge of all the different areas you are involved in?
Angie Messer: Our greatest investment at Booz Allen is in people and in ideas to solve our clients’ greatest challenges. When I look at the key to managing all those resources, I think of three components. First, Booz Allen looks beyond the immediate needs of today and has a longer-term view. That is an absolute must if you are going to figure out how to leverage your internal resources and maintain your priority areas.
Second, we know that if you are going to make big bets, you have to prioritize and focus on them with the right mix of resources. Lastly, we measure impact beyond a traditional, short-term ROI. If you are going to manage your internal resources, you have to think about other metrics that make impact , like motivating and inspiring people, attracting and retaining top talent, stimulating and generating ideas that get results, promoting exceptional delivery that makes a difference, and, of course, having meaningful relationships and partnerships with industry, such as vendors, academia, and even clients. All those things are critical in managing your most important resources to stay on the cutting edge.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some areas that stand out for you where you’ve been able to make some real strides from a technological perspective the past few years?
Angie Messer: It has been very exciting to be part of the leadership team in the SIG, working horizontally across all markets. One of the milestones and achievements that we are very proud of is Connected Health. We are developing secure mobile techniques, coupled with social media and cloud‑based services to connect patients with doctors, scientists with other researchers, and citizens with agencies that serve them. This helps achieve not only missions of our clients, but really creates better and timely treatment, and ultimately new inventions.
Also, we have been developing a collaborative research platform architecture that can ingest data from a variety of sensors into a scalable cloud‑based infrastructure that can be used to make health and other scientific research more efficient, enable reuse of previous research and findings, and more quickly uncover new breakthroughs. The platform is transferrable to other disciplines, including the security community for intelligence analysis and the financial services community for improving waste and fraud detection.
Another good example is Booz Allen’s Cyber4Sight product line, which provides tailored, anticipatory cyber threat intelligence by collecting and analyzing specific threat actors around the world. We quickly began to test other applications of this concept in our Global4Sight product line to predict potential threats to physical assets, such as supply chains or facilities globally. The objective is to get ahead of threats, so organizations can take action to minimize the actual impact and even prevent incidents that put them at risk and to better protect people, data, systems, networks, and operations. Those, to me, are some of the great accomplishments that have a lot of applicability to many other client problems.
ExecutiveBiz: What’s it like when you’re with a customer and you’re able to really unlock why what you’re offering is going to be completely transform what they’re doing?
Angie Messer: Some of the most recent ‘a-ha!’ moments have come from sharing our own innovation story with our clients. Clients have this ‘a-ha!’ moment because they can relate to how we formed our innovation group and the need to do something differently. They definitely resonate around looking inside in their own organization, and asking ‘how do we build a culture of innovation and collaboration that can permeate the entire organization to be more relevant, more efficient, and more productive?’ I think another big ‘a-ha!’ moment happens when clients who, even though they’ve got declining or flat budgets, still have a real high expectation for performance and see innovation as critical to their relevancy and future.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you measure how well you’re doing that internally, and how are you continuing to try to drive that culture and have it really permeate throughout everything that you do?
Angie Messer: At Booz Allen we realize that each of us has the responsibility every day to find ways to innovate. Innovation is not just a once‑a‑year activity. It is truly built upon idea generation, sharing and consistent collaboration. When the commitment to innovation is boosted, it becomes a source of true competitive advantage, and our clients understand this.
We have had a rich tradition of inspiring and building a culture where innovation and creativity thrive. It is where you have trust, the ability to experiment, take risk and collaborate. All those are considered top priorities at Booz Allen. We lead the process of supplying new ideas, separating the weak ideas from the strong ones, experimenting, prototyping, quickly determining failure or success all the while incorporating lessons learned back into the process. As a result, ideas can be scaled to meet a variety of client’s needs. This is one of the ultimate measures of success for a culture and for a business – this constant generation of ideas and going through the process of creativity and evaluation. Because we live in a constantly changing world, it is critical that we pull together the right set of diverse people, tools, and processes to address and prioritize some of these hard problems.
The Booz Allen Ideas Festival is an example of one of the initiatives we offer to encourage innovation in our firm. The Ideas Festival has been a huge success in getting the best ideas from employees. We couple it with an interactive online platform called “The Garage” where staff can tackle challenging problems and develop innovative solutions with crowd‑sourced input from peers who comment and vote on ideas and concepts. We even have competitive events similar to “shark tank” where we actually fund winning project ideas to incentivize and motivate our teams. Our intent is to equip our staff with an innovation ecosystem with tools, incentives and engagement so all year around they are excited about sharing ideas, working with each other, the possibility of Booz Allen funding their solution and seeing their idea move from concept to actual client service and solutions.
ExecutiveBiz: What’s the true value driven by the convergence of next‑generation technologies, and what’s it going to really enable the government to do more with less as we move forward with this tough budget?
Angie Messer: Despite the fact that our clients’ budgets are flat or declining, there is still this high expectation for performance, to meeting missions, and to grow business. Our clients have to do more with less. We’ve defined this concept that called the ‘Value Gap,’ which represents the opportunity to create value for our clients by integrating or creating solutions featuring next-gen technologies and techniques so our clients can meet their goals within the current budget environment. Innovation is clearly the solution, because it will fill this value gap of increased missions but decreased dollars. The traditional means of dealing with that gap are no longer viable. We can help our clients leverage exciting new technologies and capabilities to harness and create better solutions.
The big challenges our clients face call for big solutions, and Booz Allen’s wide range of innovative, powerful, and reconfigurable capabilities and next-gen technologies meet these challenges. We assemble integrated solution platforms specifically designated to address large scale, complex client issues. Some examples are: harvesting value from data through unique analytics, beyond just big data; developing small, rapidly‑deployable prototypes to address complex mission challenges; creating sustainable IT enterprises through technical architectures and elimination of redundancies and stovepipes; and then finally, creating productive intelligence for to manage increasingly dangerous cyber threats.
Within Booz Allen’s Strategic Innovation Group we have leaders and staff from across out firm to focus on these problems in a way that has never been done before. We are creating technical capital around big problems, using next-gen technologies and analytics, and bringing all of that to bear for our clients across all of our markets.