Michael Isman oversees strategic consulting services for many of Booz Allen Hamilton’s federal customers in his vice president role at the firm.
Isman last spoke to ExecutiveBiz in March 2013 to discuss Booz Allen’s strategic technology and innovation center of excellence and trends in information technology transformation.
In this new conversation, Isman describes the work of the firm’s management development functional community and what it aims to do with clients, as well as how customer expectations of IT are causing a shift in the market.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the biggest changes in the market you’ve seen since you last spoke with us? Name some of the areas you have focused on since.
Michael Isman: Things move very quickly these days especially around the technology area, and since the last time we spoke a number of things that have been in theory are being implemented. There has been a big push around more efficient and effective technology.
The expectations of our clients have been to move technology forward, implement more quickly and actually get things in place that allow them to drive efficiencies in their agencies while supporting the mission. We have seen a number of things around cloud implementations, open source platforms and more agile developments put in place.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you describe what the Management Consulting Functional Community does and some of its goals?
Michael Isman: I’m one of the people who support this management development functional community led by Dee Dee Helfenstein, a senior vice president at Booz Allen. All of the functional communities across Booz Allen have three major goals.
One is building staff affiliation and encouraging collaboration around functional and capability areas. Two is defining governance of the role framework, critical skills, training, certifications and other things to facilitate functional development. Three is capturing and making intellectual capital accessible and discoverable across our business.
The management consulting functional community breaks down a number of different areas around management consulting ranging from organizational design and mission support to change management to IT strategy and enterprise architecture among others. The idea is to bring together about 8,000 management consultants across our organization to advance our management consulting functions.
Just recently, we put in place our management consulting games, where about 400 of our consultants are competing across several different areas identified by our leads as critical to our internal business and our clients. The teams are asked to come up with solutions/approaches to these management consulting problems and/or challenges. It is a great way to bring alike people together who have similar and complementary functional capabilities so that they can actually work on different solutions and cross-pollinate the solutions across our entire client base.
ExecutiveBiz: What areas of IT are agencies starting to see the most changes in?
Michael Isman: The biggest thing that we’re seeing, especially in the federal space, is regarding the expectations of IT. Customers of IT, whether it is an agency, a citizen or those involved or impacted by cross-agency collaboration, have higher expectations and need IT more quickly. These customer bases are now more tech-savvy with the advances of consumer-driven IT solutions.
Customers understand what they want, whether it is apps for certain capabilities or specific targeted solutions, and they understand how the technology can be delivered to them. This changing landscape has accelerated advancements in new enablers of change whether that’s cloud solutions, digital capabilities, agile solutions, open source or different areas that allow agencies to do the things faster.
The technology environment allows you to actually do more with less. Take open source solutions as an example, which allow you to have a base for building out new solutions and capabilities and to think about things in a much more agile way in developing smaller pieces of the puzzle to an ultimate solution.
On top of that there are a number of platforms and existing solutions that government agencies can take advantage of and implement within their organization.
ExecutiveBiz: Where do you see industry as being able to collaborate with agencies on IT strategy
Michael Isman: It is simply stated: we need more interaction not less. When industry collaborates with agencies and work on projects together, whether around business or technology needs in an organization, it starts with government research around mission solutions that are required by the organization. It does not necessarily have to be an IT strategy engagement.
It could be an idea or thought where the government reaches to industry to collaborate on what are the possibilities. Whether it is done for an RFI or an open dialogue using social media, we see agencies leveraging crowdsourcing and challenges to build out more components of their IT strategy.
We see the need for greater collaboration in government-wide, cross-government or inter-agency interaction necessary to make individual agencies and actual solutions successful. Industry collaborating with the individual agencies to understand what’s going on across the landscape of different areas is a critical thing.
We see people connecting on things that we are doing for our own organizations and bringing those to the forefront so agencies can leverage similar applications whether that’s cloud brokerage or teleworking.
At Booz Allen we bring government agencies together to allow them to bring ideas, best practices and lessons learned on things they’ve tried and challenges they’ve faced so that others can avoid the pain or will know the steps to take.
ExecutiveBiz: What business trend do you believe will gain more attraction in 2015?
Michael Isman: One that really hits home is advancing and driving mission value through digital solutions. The government is at a point where it can leverage digital solutions in a very significant way. There are a number of different ways this area can play out as digital is significantly broad and can be defined differently by different people.
We will see advancements with digital engagement with citizens and better way of driving service online and self-service capabilities for citizen services. We will see transformation around digital platforms whether leveraging open source or ready-made digital platforms in order to move technology and more importantly to drive missions forward. We will see advanced digital marketing with respect to research and the ways of leveraging industry in a meaningful way.
We are investing in making digital become real by targeting applications to specific missions of the clients that we are serving in order to enhance their digital experience. We are leveraging digital platforms whether it is a new and quicker way of implementing a system or actually driving towards more out-of-the-box solutions that are available to speed the life-cycle.
We are embracing and advancing the power of digital solutions, cloud, open source, agile development and all of those components to speed the time to market. The benefit is too high for it not to take off, the citizens/stakeholders are ready to engage in new ways and the technology environment is ready to be embraced and accessed for success.
Federal agencies are positioned to embrace and make it happen!