John Foley, president and chief financial officer of DSA, recently participated in an Executive Spotlight interview with ExecutiveBiz to continue the discussion from a Competitive Intelligence Spotlight in 2020 covering DSA’s best practices and benefits that CI has provided its customers.
In addition, John Foley also discussed his growth strategy for DSA and the efforts to improve internal IT services and quality management, the challenges of competing and winning contracts, a recent agreement with Virginia Tech and a push into academia and more.
“The fact that DSA is 100 percent employee-owned, enables us to focus on long-term growth for our associates which is best achieved by focusing on our customers’ missions. We may not have the same pressure as private equity-backed companies or public companies for short-term results. This frees us up to focus on long-term strategy and developing our associates’ talents and skills.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight with John Foley below:
ExecutiveBiz: A little over a year ago, we touched base on competitive intelligence and a wide range of the challenges involved for DSA. What can you tell us about DSA’s best practices and the benefits that CI has had for your customers since we last spoke?
John Foley: “The competitive intelligence discussion was great and I really enjoyed the variety of perspectives the interviewees provided. One of the highlights of that conversation was the customer perspective; what competitive intelligence ultimately means to the customer.
Obviously, customers complete programs every 3 to 5 years or so. That competition usually leads to improved outcomes for customers, either through better solutions, lower prices or a combination of both.
The better you can understand both the customer and what your competition might do, your chances of winning improve, and the customers’ chances of raising the bar or lowering prices also improve. Competitive intelligence leads to the outcome the customer desires, with a few exceptions.
Understanding the immediate requirements along with the customer’s strategic objectives and putting that into your offer is key. Then ask yourself, how does that compare to what your competitors are doing and offering. If you’re competent, you are doing your best to set your organization apart from the competition, giving the customer no doubt they are making the right choice.
As we all move forward, customers are really leveraging emerging technologies, including the migration of legacy systems to the cloud and the impact of this consolidation. We’re already seeing these applications and programs getting consumed by AI/ML among other advanced technologies.
DSA has been around since 1963. We’ve seen these types of shifts in the market before. I think combining a focus of where the customer is going, beyond the requirements, providing better solutions than your competition always provides you an advantage when responding to requirements.”
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about your growth strategy for DSA and the focus you’ve had on the company’s internal IT services and quality management alongside John Somplasky?
John Foley: “The fact that DSA is 100 percent employee-owned, enables us to focus on long-term growth for our associates which is best achieved by focusing on our customers’ missions. We may not have the same pressure as private equity-backed companies or public companies for short-term results.
This frees us up to focus on long-term strategy and developing our associates’ talents and skills. An employee ownership structure also has a significant impact on our culture and our customers can feel that when interacting with DSA associates.
With growth in mind and DSA being a mid-tier company, we often compete and partner with Tier 1 and 2 companies. For our customers and partners to have faith and trust at the level they expect, DSA needs to ensure our processes and security are beyond reliable. This is what our CISO and VP of Program Excellence, John Somplasky brings; a small, employee-owned culture with beyond reliable programs.
Now, we’re working to ensure our quality management system is adopted at all levels as the new CMMI Level 3 requirements are adopted and we’ve been working on that for some time now. That is, to have consistency and standardization within even our smallest programs to mitigate risk and maintain trust.”
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ExecutiveBiz: In addition to that, congrats on the recent spot on the DIA’s $12.6B IT vehicle. How does a company like DSA address the challenges to win a spot on a contract this big and how is DSA working to address the latest defense challenges for its clients?
John Foley: “In order to pursue large work, we’ve discussed both competitive intelligence and the need for reliable business processes enabling a high degree of customer confidence in your organization to operate with minimal risk and provide improved solutions.
DSA is nearly 60 years old and has been delivering mission-critical solutions for a long time. We pride ourselves in maintaining reputable relationships with both partners and customers. It’s pivotal to understand the customer’s long-term strategy and how your organization can help them get there rather than just respond to the required standards. To me, we are at an inflection point with rapidly changing technology, knowing their strategic goals is key.
The DoD is also shifting some of its top priorities, including the shift from JEDI to the hybrid cloud model. Those hybrid clouds will be supported by Tier 1+ companies, like Google, AWS, Microsoft. As applications roll up to the cloud, knowing how to support that and how it’ll affect those applications, in the long run, is something we are paying close attention to. Other areas are Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) and accelerating data which, with AI/ML, will be all interrelated and have effects across the board.
Our organization has traditionally operated within enterprise systems. Within the shifting priorities in cloud, ZTA, and accelerating data, DSA sees pockets of where our traditional offerings have application within the DoD and other agencies.
There are still a lot of large programs and customer solutions needing improved efficiency from emerging technologies. That’s an area we’re very focused on and expect to be for some time.”
ExecutiveBiz: Also, congrats on the recent agreement to bring OSIsoft PI-based solutions to Virginia Tech. Can you talk about the expansion of DSA’s solutions in both infrastructure and data to address VT’s biggest challenges as well as how that will influence your work for other institutions and federal agencies in the future?
John Foley: “This is such an exciting area for DSA. It’s still somewhat emerging and we have a different approach to the market when it comes to universities than the federal sales cycle. The project life cycle tends to be shorter and has more of a commercial flavor.
We want to ensure our federal-based business model does not interfere with our go-to-market strategy, so we are investing in this area with what I will call non-federal processes and resources.
An old quote, but with some relevance, from Norm Augustine who said federal contractors are unblemished by success in the commercial market. So we want to recognize that and strike the proper balance as this solution has application across the critical infrastructure space.
In addition to Virginia Tech, we’ve seen success with this solution with other universities, including the University of Vermont, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, MIT, and Maryland.
This is a high potential growth area for DSA as our customers benefit from both response times and cost savings via enhanced situational awareness of how their facilities and campuses are functioning. The other benefit is a high degree of cybersecurity and information assurance that DSA can wrap the system with our extensive federal, cyber background.
Right now, we’ve been successfully growing this area and we expect more to come. We feel that the combination of having that federal perspective on quality management along with the situational awareness from the universities will be very powerful as we move forward.”