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Executive Spotlight: Stu Kippelman, CIO of Parsons

Executive Spotlight: Stu Kippelman, CIO of Parsons - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Stu Kippelman, chief information officer of Parsons, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz for the publication’s latest Executive Spotlight interview to discuss growth strategy with the company to drive customer tech capabilities in the defense, intelligence and critical infrastructures areas.

In addition, Kippleman also discussed the innovation and drive for smart cities, interactive AI, data mining and other areas to drive business intelligence as well as building company culture and creating long term success for Parsons’ workforce.

“We know that our employees want to be part of the special kind of work we do. As one team, we all focus on the customer’s mission. We do a lot of career tracking for our people to understand where they are in the company and where they are headed. I’ve never spoken to a single person who works here that did not feel the way that I do about our mission.”

You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with Stu Kippleman below:

ExecutiveBiz: How would you describe your growth strategy with Parsons to help your customers transform their technology capabilities to drive business value and improve their business processes in the defense, intelligence and critical infrastructures areas?

Stu Kippelman: “There are two sides of our company, at Parsons we have the critical infrastructure side, which is focused on building the future of our country and global projects. The other side of the business is based around the defense and national security sectors, which includes cybersecurity, intelligence, geospatial, missile defense and more.

Throughout the company, we are very focused on the concept of ‘One Parsons.’ It means no matter how many sectors we work in, we are one company and will always collaborate, communicate, and leverage all areas of the company to solve our customer’s problems.

It’s a complex environment with many challenges that have massive implications on the safety, security, and health of our nation. The increase in ransomware and cyber-attacks that we’ve seen recently has been a huge challenge, but we have some amazingly talented people with all the skills needed to face the challenge. We work with our customers to help them navigate this environment and ensure the safety and security of their organizations.

One of our focus areas has been implementing and IT strategy that sums it all up: ‘Always be where the customer is.’ That ethos implies that we will relentlessly prioritize work and projects to ensure complete alignment with what our business needs to deliver for our customers.

We ensure that everyone in IT spends time with our customers and are fully embedded with their business. We focus heavily on our operations and ensuring that we have a world class environment for our company and to leverage for our customers.

Each of our customers is asking for something different, and we remain flexible and agile to deliver on those varying requirements through diverse tools, technologies, capabilities, and strategies that we’ve honed over the years.

We’re on a complex IT journey and we have made a lot of significant progress modernizing the company’s function. We transformed the operation by moving 85 percent of all workloads and compute into the cloud thereby reducing our data center footprint by 70 percent.

These are all capabilities driven by the business’ requirements. We put a lot of effort and time into making sure that the technology is transparent, and it doesn’t get in anyone’s way, which drives productivity and value across the board. ”

ExecutiveBiz: “If technology doesn’t exist, invent it.” What has Parsons been able to offer in the fields of smart cities, interactive AI, data mining and other areas to drive business intelligence for your customers and generate growth, keep up with the pace of innovation and develop new capabilities and fresh market opportunities?

Stu Kippelman: “We have made significant gains in artificial intelligence and machine learning. I call it ‘intelligence data.’ We’re focused on all the data and intelligence that Parsons and our customers have collected and leveraging it toward the mutual benefit and success of our customers.

Parsons has spent many years working with all the government agencies, and the work that is delivered is incredible. Included are many industry-leading products and services in the Smart Cities, Rail and Aviation space. We use AI and ML capabilities to solve customer problems and deliver new insights that they never had before. The main benefit of using the intelligent data is that it translates into making business decisions faster at a much higher quality.

The trick is being able to discover the answers to questions that you haven’t necessarily asked yet. All the work we do internally for employees is no different, as we work to expose data that our employees may not have realized we have available.”

ExecutiveBiz: What are the greater challenges we face in IT modernization and goals for digital transformation at Parsons?

Stu Kippelman: “We have two kinds of buckets of work. The first is the work we do for our customers and the second bucket is the internal work within Parsons. The company spends a significant amount of time with our customers providing AI and cyber capabilities, but also engineering, design and construction.

In those overall mission areas, there is more and more AI and new capabilities being built, especially in software. We provide the smart city software and the geospatial software as well. We provide software access across every one of these areas. We are also building AI into all of them so even from the traffic space, there’s AI directly involved or there are AI components in the process.

We’re being careful because implementing technology just for the sake of new technology doesn’t get us anywhere. AI for the sake of AI isn’t effective. As a result, we’re focused on the missions of our customers and what they need.

Once you have AL, ML or any other software-based technology, you’ll have plenty of data that at the source must be accurate. Otherwise, the results will be incorrect, and you’ll be working in the wrong direction.

We spend quite some time on data harmonization and data consolidation to ensure we have single sources of truth which feed accurate data into all of our capabilities. At Parsons, everything we do is about the best place to drive your intelligence and that’s just going to help our customers.

With all the cyber threats and hacking going on these days, our customers started to ask us about our capabilities to help with security and protect them. The challenge is not traditional IT, rather a converged infrastructure of Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT).

Since we already deliver world-class advanced cyber security capabilities across our Federal business, and we are of course experts in the critical infrastructure space that understands how all the operations run such as control and environmental systems, we are uniquely positioned to bring it all together.

As a result, I’m leading an effort at Parsons which delivers cyber security services for the critical infrastructure and commercial sectors. From advisory and assessments, to remediation and monitoring – we bring our Federal capabilities to the OT area.”

ExecutiveBiz: When it comes to building a culture and recruitment for Parsons, what do you believe are the most significant challenges facing CIOs in the federal space to find and attract new talent and retain them to continue growing into the next generation of business leaders?

Stu Kippelman: “It’s a challenge that everyone is having in our sector as retaining talent is not easy, especially these days. We have an incredible recruiting organization that spends a lot of time on this issue.  Understand that you can’t recruit the best people if you don’t have one of the best places to work. We spend a lot of time making sure that we focus on our people first, and are one of the best places to work.

We have, along with many organizations, stepped up our flexibility in the federal market and we have gone from hundreds of simultaneous remote access users to support for the whole company. Everyone in IT did an amazing job during the pandemic, delivering outstanding remote capabilities that enables a completely flexible work environment.

We know that our employees want to be part of the special kind of work we do. As one team, we all focus on the customer’s mission. We do a lot of career tracking for our people to understand where they are in the company and where they are headed. I’ve never spoken to a single person who works here that did not feel the way that I do about our mission, which is why I decided to come to Parsons.

You don’t feel like a cog in the wheel, which is how I have felt before. We believe that everyone should feel like they truly make a difference every day. That takes an amazing and special culture that we have here at Parsons. We make fast and smart decisions and we have a phrase that Carey Smith is championing:  ‘Get to yes.’ It seems very simple, but it helps us cut through the red tape we might find ourselves in when you’re stuck in a process.

We have a great track record of promotions and internal mobility. We strive to make everyday fun and meaningful. We want people to be able to use new technologies. Those are very key and important pieces that we’ve also implemented in addition to amazing processes like Scaled Agile.

We provide a streamlined prioritization process that not only allows the right work to be done, but everyone has equal ability to provide feedback to ensure we always challenge ourselves to do better. We hope that our employees are excited to work here. We certainly provide them the environment to do it and that translates our productivity, which goes back to delivering a better product.”

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Written by William McCormick

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