Mike Cosgrave, president and COO of AceInfo Solutions (AceInfo), recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the company“™s work diversifying its client base and market position following Dovel“™s acquisition of the company back in 2019.
In addition, Cosgrave addresses the toughest challenges facing the company“™s culture and customer base as well as the company“™s success in securing big contract awards and AceInfo“™s strategic goals for the rest of 2021 and beyond.
“We’ve worked very hard to provide new growth opportunities for our employees. We want employees to join us for a career, not a contract, and we want to give them opportunities to grow within the Dovel Family of Companies.“
ExecutiveBiz: Following Dovel“™s acquisition of Ace Info Solutions (AceInfo) in Sept. 2019, how has the company been able to diversify its client base and expand its market capabilities in the federal sector?
“The acquisition brought many benefits. One of the biggest was expanding our domain expertise in health IT, life sciences, public safety, and grants management in addition to many advanced technologies we can now offer our customers. Our combined capabilities were a perfect complement to each other.
AceInfo traditionally focused on the public safety domain, which added to those that Dovel already had expertise in, and this expanded the range of opportunities we could pursue together. We had individual teams with similar customers, technical requirements, or operating models come together and function well.
Right from the start, we began collaborating and sharing best practices. Our shared experiences along with recent contract awards allowed us to perform better and continue to build and diversify our portfolio. We“™ve expanded our customer base which has exposed us to additional complex, mission-critical challenges to support.“
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the biggest problems that are facing your customers today?
“They typically fall into three general categories. The first is digital modernization. Our customers may have legacy applications, and they may have been around for a while or be overly complicated. Their services may be hard to maintain, so they need to advance to the next level by taking advantage of state-of-the-art or state-of-the-practice technologies and getting better ROI out of their legacy systems.
The second area we often see is cloud engineering and adoption. Cloud has been around for a while. Most organizations in the government and private sector are fairly comfortable with it, but we do run into a fair number of customers that are not taking full advantage of all cloud options and efficiencies that can be gained. We often walk our customers through that journey to optimize their cloud use.
The third problem we often see is customers not taking the next step in advanced analytics. A good example is how they incorporate artificial intelligence (AI). We understand and invest in our AI, machine learning, and deep learning capabilities. We are bringing to the table that know-how and those solutions to our customers when their requirements call for it. The further we can assist, we can help customers find good use cases for advanced analytics and find good test cases for AI and useful data sets.“
ExecutiveBiz: As AceInfo has integrated with Dovel, how have the two cultures been able to work together to advance emerging technology capabilities and produce lasting and highly innovative solutions to customers?
“The most significant factor in the success or failure of an acquisition is the culture. The culture has to match. I’ve been through integrations in the past where the cultures didn’t fit, and there were resultant issues to overcome. AceInfo and Dovel were a great match right from the start from a cultural perspective.
We had shared values that included collaboration, transparency, entrepreneurship, and a focus on missions which improve, protect, and save lives. It was seamless. Our leadership teams hit it off from the beginning and continue to collaborate well. I really do genuinely enjoy working with the expanded team.
One important thing that we did as a company to expand our capabilities was to take advantage of Dovel’s new capacity. We created an Innovation and Technology Group (ITG) that is a game-changer for us in terms of growth, implementing rapid innovations, and addressing operational challenges in our customer spaces. It’s a cross-functional team of experts that perform various functions; one is that it addresses our customers’ most challenging problems.
If we have a contract that is running into a unique engineering challenge, we can assemble engineers from the ITG to immediately focus on the issue and help the delivery team meet the customers’ requirements.
In addition to helping program operations, the ITG also builds cutting-edge and tailored technological proofs of our customers’ concepts. If one of our program teams identifies a new challenge or requirement on their contract, the ITG can create a proof of concept to address that need. They will then run it by the customer and ask, “˜does this address your problem?“™ More likely than not, the customer will say that it“™s precisely what they need.
Finally, the ITG assists with all parts of the business development lifecycle, and has really accelerated our growth since the acquisition. They bring ideas, talent, and play a critical role in our growth engine. So that is an example of something that we created to take advantage of the acquisition.
From an integration standpoint, we’ve worked very hard to provide new growth opportunities for our employees. We want employees to join us for a career, not a contract, and we want to give them opportunities to grow within the Dovel Family of Companies – even if it means losing great talent in one role to give them an opportunity to lead on another team. Our Human Resources shared services team has worked hard to develop the systems and processes to help facilitate this initiative and ensure all our employees feel valued.“
ExecutiveBiz: I“™d read that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Dovel brought in over $425M in contracts awards and hired almost 500 new employees. What were the keys to your success in such a challenging year and how have those contract wins helped the company grow?
“There“™s no playbook for operating during a pandemic, so it“™s been a challenging year. However, I am very proud of what we“™ve accomplished. First and foremost, our employees were outstanding. They didn’t miss a beat. They were dedicated to our customers’ missions and adapted to this new normal that we“™ve all been dealing with for the last year.
Additionally, all our support functions continued performing at a high level while also integrating our teams and systems as a result of the acquisition. That“™s a huge credit to our culture and our team“™s incredible support of each other.
The other critical component to our success is that the leadership team has focused on supporting our employees during the pandemic. We have wellness programs, COVID-19 specific leave, removed PTO accrual caps in 2020, and paid corporate membership to Care.com, among many other initiatives to help our employees and illustrate that we appreciate them.
Regarding our business success, what sets us apart is our ability to blend our domain expertise and advanced technologies to accelerate solutions that best fit the needs of our customers. Anyone can be an AI or IT provider, but success comes from connecting the technology with a knowledge of your customers’ missions or a particular market.
This is the differentiator ““ the ability to drive innovation to expand customer capabilities and bring cutting-edge or even state-of-the-art technologies to improve the performance needs of those domains.
We were rapidly growing due to a combination of capability and domain experience, entrepreneurial spirit, customer focus, and an outcomes-based approach. So all that led to tremendous new growth opportunities. We were not competing in the small business realm, and even though we go toe to toe with some of the biggest companies in our market, we’ve had a great year. I“™m very proud of the team and what they“™ve accomplished.“
ExecutiveBiz: What are your strategic goals for the company and for your customers as 2021 begins to pick up speed? New markets? New contracts?
“We will continue to invest in the company to ensure that we remain focused on our growth. When you look at our investments, when you look at the culture, you see we are very strong in technical capabilities or domain knowledge.
Over the next year or two, we are looking to build new relationships and accounts in those areas of expertise. We intend to expand our capabilities and improve the service we provide to our current customers and extend that expertise to new customers and markets.
Incorporating new technologies into our services will be a critical advantage for us as well. I think that will be a key to our success, and I“™m committed to support those initiatives.“