Bruce Caswell, president and chief executive officer of Maximus, and 2020 Wash100 Award recipient, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding how the company has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as enhancing workforce support, developing new technologies and supporting employment services. Additionally, Caswell discussed investments in new technologies, as well as where Maximus will head in 2021.
“Maximus employees are helping many citizens around the world gain access to needed government services, and that’s what inspires me each day when I come to work. The long-term prospects for the company remain incredibly bright because we fill an important role for the government at a time when you know there’s not a never-ending budget, yet the demands continue to be quite significant.“
ExecutiveBiz: What were the major contributing factors to your growth and success, in lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic?
“One of the key findings for us, with COVID-19, is that our business model is extremely resilient. The basic functions that we perform for our government clients can be modified to address emergent needs in situations like a global pandemic.
A lot of what we’ve done, in terms of engaging with consumers, such as helping them navigate complicated programs, providing information that’s valuable on those government programs or completing transactions, are all established business processes that are supported by empathetic and well trained individuals.
We use tools that help navigate the complexity of these programs and policies. The additional finding was that we could deliver much of that from home as well. We had an opportunity with COVID-19 to rearrange the components that underpin our business to create new solutions. That led to the opportunity to work with a large number of states on their pandemic response, including on unemployment insurance programs and contact tracing and disease investigation.“
ExecutiveBiz: How was Maximus able to respond and adapt its operations to drive its own revenue growth while assisting government agencies with the challenges of COVID-19?
“There are two aspects to this: infrastructure and markets. Within infrastructure, we made strategic decisions to invest in migrating our IT platforms to the cloud several years ago.
The cloud migration process has created the ability to flex our programs in a dramatic fashion and to add compute capacity where needed, as well as incorporate the security provisions that the cloud provides.
We did the same with our telephony infrastructure. We moved from premise-based telephony to the cloud, enabling us to gain tremendous flexibility because you can immediately spin up and provision new agents wherever they can get an IP address.
This enables the work from home. We've used Amazon WorkSpaces extensively, in addition to virtual private network (VPN) and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) connections to enable secure connectivity for employees from remote locations.
We can handle programs that have personal identifiable information and personal health information in a highly secure fashion. Those infrastructure components paid off in terms of being able to move a large portion of our workforce to a work from home environment.
From a market perspective, we recognize that not only are we dealing with the current pandemic, but issues related to public health preparedness as well and the need to have more robust public health systems.
We created and launched a new part of Maximus, called Maximus Public Health (MPH), led by Dr. Drew Sommers who comes to us after a 25-year career in government. Our MPH team is intended, not only to give us the ability to respond to the needs of our customers in the near term, but also to help our customers address long-term public health challenges.“
ExecutiveBiz: How has Maximus supported its employees during the COVID-19 pandemic?
“The very first thing we did when COVID-19 hit the U.S. was put income protection programs in place for our employees, so if they needed to take time off to isolate, provide childcare or take care of loved ones that were ill, they’d have that ability to do it.
We've also kept employee safety at the forefront. We developed a market leading solution to screen our employees that need to come into our physical sites. It is a mobile app that provides a set of screening questions each day, before they report. They’re granted a digital credential that allows them to access the facility and if they have signs of COVID symptoms, they can screen out and remain at home.
We don’t want employees to ever face the choice of coming to work for their income or staying safe and keeping their family safe. In our operations, we’ve met and at times exceeded federal and local standards and requirements to ensure that we’re properly socially distancing and that we have clean workplaces and facilities for our employees.“
ExecutiveBiz: How are Maximus' investments in emerging technology and digital capabilities going to continue to help your workforce into 2021?
“We have invested in digital technologies and continue to do so. There are some innovative digital tools and solutions that we use in support of our customers. We've also invested heavily in omnichannel customer contact centers, which has introduced various modalities of communication to better help government programs serve the public.
Behind the scenes, we’ve been investing in things like robotic process automation (RPA). Our bots have processed over two million transactions, which has made work a lot easier for our workforce in our operation centers because the mundane tasks can be taken over and automated, so that employees can focus on the more sophisticated and complex challenges, which is part of our digital strategy.
These solutions continue to be integrated into our everyday business. The future is going to be much more focused on data, and how we can use data, in a highly effective way to develop new solutions to gain insights on the services we provide to our customers and to ensure that we’re optimizing the way we allocate our resources.
As an example, working closely with Virginia Tech's graduate school, we’ve been working to develop better statistical models and predictive analytics to optimize the way we engage with job seekers in our employment services programs to ensure that once they secure work, their employment is sustainable.“
ExecutiveBiz: What are your expectations and future plans for Maximus to continue its growth in new markets within the U.S. federal market and overseas?
“I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made in the last nine years, including growing our federal business from about $90 million to about $1.4 billion over that time. We’d like to continue to expand in the federal marketplace, especially within technology and helping our customers solve more complicated challenges with advanced technologies.
Great progress is being made in bringing capabilities like DevSecOps and Agile development to federal customers and integrating cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. I’d like to see us move more in that direction with our federal work, while continuing to support larger programs that are undergoing pretty significant transformation.
Part of our 2021 story as a company is the return of our outside the US segment that has been impacted by the pandemic. Australia is a good example where things are closer to getting back to the new normal, following COVID-19.
The core of our business internationally is in the area of employment services. Across large portions of the world, as economies start to reopen and recover, we will work with our government clients to help them get people into those jobs.
I’m excited about how we’ve carefully grown our outside U.S. business by entering new markets where we think there’s the potential to bring the full capabilities of Maximus. We recently completed a small acquisition in South Korea that will enable us to begin supporting government programs in their country.
Secondly, we have expanded our European business with a small operation presently in Italy and Sweden, both in response to shifts in governments' approaches to public sector employment services.
That’s how we think about outside the U.S. It’s an important part of our business. It’s the smallest of the three, so we don’t often talk about it a lot, but it’s a big part of the engine for 2021 as we look forward.“