Glenn Hickok, president of Noblis MSD, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz for the publication’s latest Executive Spotlight interview to explore the establishment of Noblis MSD from recent acquisitions, his vision for the company and its capabilities as well as the launch of “Run with Noblis Solutions,” the challenges of tech innovation and company growth for the rest of 2021.
“We have a common purpose to serve our customers’ missions. This drives us to understand DoD as well as our service branches to better position them and ourselves to implement the most relevant technologies of the future.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight with Glenn Hickok below:
About Noblis MSD
ExecutiveBiz: Congrats on the establishment of Noblis MSD—the new name for McKean Defense. With the goal to offer integrated mission services to federal agencies, can you talk about the integration and your vision for Noblis MSD, and how it will benefit both the company and your customers?
Glenn Hickok: “It’s an exciting time for Noblis. For more than 25 years, we’ve been focused on research and development as well as science and technology advisory services. We’ve always had a presence within the Department of Defense (DoD) and have an appetite to expand our presence and deliver these critical technologies to a wider customer set within DoD.
For the past few years, we’d been looking for the right company to acquire in terms of customer relations, a strong value system, culture and passion for positively impacting DoD missions. We found that in McKean Defense. Of the companies we considered over the years, we felt that no other company had the characteristics we were looking for or understood the U.S. Navy’s needs better.
They had great customer relationships and were delivering advanced capabilities across artificial intelligence, machine learning, cyber capabilities on the offensive and defensive side as well as other critical competencies such as warfighting.
It’s been a really phenomenal start to our journey. Our companies are so complementary that the integration effort has been more seamless than others I participated in previously.
There’s not a lot of redundancy in terms of missions or overlapping customer sets. We have been able to leverage the legacy McKean Navy platforms with Noblis’ capabilities to address larger challenges for the service branch. Now, we have tremendous qualifications across the board and a strong, blended culture—both which have driven our early success.
I’m really impressed by this team’s success. Through the transition, the Noblis MSD team has continued to capture new business. Most recently we announced two new awards. One is to enhance the operability of naval surface ships through system modernization and sustainment and the other is to help optimize Navy networks.
There are a few additional announcements we expect to make in the coming weeks. The bottom line is that team is thriving and driven to help our clients advance their critical missions.”
Noblis Growth Strategy, Emerging Markets
ExecutiveBiz: How would you describe your initial growth strategy for the company as you focus on emerging markets and capabilities for DoD’s organizations and the impact that AI, cyber, RPA and other tech will have on the department and the rest of the federal sector?
Glenn Hickok: “I believe that establishing a greater presence at the service level in the U.S. Navy will help us with those efforts. I also think when we look at the Joint Artificial Intelligence Command (JAIC), we look at the warfighting capabilities that U.S. service branches are going to need to remain vigilant going forward. We believe there is and will be a very solid match there.
We’ll ultimately leverage our combined presence and capabilities to continue building new partnerships across the services. The Air Force DCGS program is one example. There is tremendous applicability for those skill sets—not just across the Air Force but to other services across DoD.
We’ll also leverage our investment strategy—taking what we call our “Noblis sponsored research endeavors” and focus in on specific challenges that align to our intellectual horsepower to deliver capabilities that are going to be relevant in these advanced technology fields.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are specifically predominant in how we address conflict in the future. How we invest in that will focus on the specific missions ahead of us and how we progress in delivering those capabilities to our warfighters in an accelerated timeframe—especially in the Navy, that is my heritage.
I really couldn’t have more enthusiasm and drive for that mission because we’re not tied directly to a specific platform or airframe that will impact our ability to deliver effectively. We will be able to offer increased flexibility and independence in those tech fields where a lot of other organizations wouldn’t be able to deliver.”
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Federal Modernization & Run with Noblis Solutions
ExecutiveBiz: With the recent launch of “Run with Noblis Solutions,” how will the suite benefit federal agencies and cloud service providers to improve their modernization and innovation efforts in our sector while also complying with FedRAMP, CMMC and other new requirements?
Glenn Hickok: “I think that’s a lesson learned in how we solve problems to make them repeatable and transferable to allow government entities to realize the benefit of those solutions sets.
Your typical technical advisory firm may do some customer engagement for our customers, but that’s more about solving one specific problem. When you look at CMMC, you look at continuous monitoring as-a-service across the cybersecurity realm. We know that the breadth of the federal government will benefit from the capabilities that we’ve developed.
That’s a natural progression of how we will be moving forward and how we will grow in the marketplace as well. I want to capture the research and development based on the success we’ve had with individual agencies and proliferate that across a wider spread of customers.
We know that will be applicable and we can make a significant difference for the Navy, DoD and we’re looking forward to taking those investments and transferring that across a wider customer base.
Compliance offers a massive challenge that isn’t going away anytime soon. Everyone has these problems in terms of how they’re handling the different cyber threats that are out there as well as how they’re handling different accreditation processes.
Noblis has 25 years of experience developing these capabilities, which we believe puts us in a unique position to bring those to market and show the government the benefits.
This also ties back to Noblis MSD’s heritage because of the team’s extensive mission knowledge and level of trust within the government itself. It’s been a known entity, so who better to articulate some of the capabilities than a group of senior leaders who have been working on these problems for their entire careers.”
Tech Innovation Challenges
ExecutiveBiz: “New technologies are important, but not as important as new thinking.” After hearing that line from “The Killchain,” can you describe how and where our thinking about innovation needs to shift and change along with the advancement of our tech capabilities moving forward?
Glenn Hickok: “I was reading that book as we are going through diligence and trying to find the right company and just understanding the importance of those themes in terms of how do we get away from these platform-centric capabilities and shift to mobility?
As an independent, non-platform provider, how are we going to insert these critical capabilities to the warfighter into the U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force going forward as we get away from the traditional aerospace and defense mentality?
The landscape of warfare and the future battlefield will be dramatically different in the decades to come. We need to prepare for that. So, the question is how do we leverage our technical expertise and acumen to ensure the battlespace will be impacted in our favor by these capabilities we have? I believe we’re in a very strong position to be successful in this arena.
It’s not just the technologies but it’s the non-platform specific thinking and mindset in terms of how we’re going to engage an adversary. I think that as we look at the near-peer competitors that are out there and the investments that need to be made to ensure we move away from the platform-centric mindset and put capabilities into the right hands.
It’s absolutely critical that we are positioned to respond accordingly to the threats of the future.”
Future of Noblis MSD
ExecutiveBiz: What are your expectations for Noblis MSD as a full organization for what you’re looking to accomplish for the rest of 2021 and into 2022?
Glenn Hickok: “We’ll continue with the integration of the two teams for Noblis MSD. In total, the Noblis family of companies employs approximately 2000 people after incorporating the 650 employees coming in from McKean Defense. The integration is both challenging and rewarding, and I continue to be impressed at the synergies in our principles, values, and culture.
And we have a common purpose to serve our customers’ missions. This drives us to understand DoD as well as our service branches to better position them and ourselves to implement the most relevant technologies of the future.
That will ensure we can address the future battlespace as it develops and not only ensure that we’re ready, but that Noblis is one of the companies helping to drive missions forward.”