ECS President John Heneghan, a recipient of the 2022 Wash100 Award, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the most notable improvements in innovation across the federal sector in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, 5G and other critical emerging technologies.
In addition, John Heneghan also discussed the company’s recent growth initiatives to drive value for its customers as well as expand into new markets and ensure the long-term success of its workforce to address the challenges of talent recruitment in the federal marketplace during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
“We help our customers identify the information needed to be collected and analyzed to enable real-time threat and risk-driven actions. We help them dynamically manage and control user access and the data they are accessing. With solutions like ECS’ managed security platform and Pathfinder, we are able to model, configure, collect, and understand the end-to-end trust chain.”
You can read the full interview with John Heneghan below:
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about your recent growth initiatives with ECS and how you’re driving value for your customers? What do you hope to accomplish, and are there any new markets that you’re keeping an eye on in the federal sector?
John Heneghan: “Our recent growth has come from driving value for our clients across four market-leading solution areas: AI/ML and advanced data analytics, cybersecurity, digital transformation, and enterprise IT. Even more significantly may be our solutions that integrate one or more of these solution sets to deliver greater mission impact for our customers.
We build, deploy and operate enterprise-class AI/ML solutions for our Defense, Intel, Homeland, and Health customers that help our Nation better identify and provide actionable intelligence on our adversaries and terrorist organizations, as well as help us respond to emergencies, natural disasters, and help us take proactive cybersecurity measures to defend our Nation’s critical assets.
Our managed zero-trust architecture and cyber analytics solutions are using the power of AI and analytics for customers such as the Army, DHS, and DOJ to protect national assets more effectively and efficiently than ever before.
Digital transformation solutions continue to be in demand to advance the dynamic missions we support with secure, cloud-based, modern architectures with a greater emphasis on user experience.
Citizens have increasingly higher expectations for the level of service they receive from their government. They want it to match the capabilities of the apps they use every day on their mobile phones and the many systems across the government.
While those technology solution sets are where we are leading our customers, we also had two great acquisitions last year to expand our customer base. The acquisition of Indrasoft brought us greater depth at the USAF, DISA, and other DOD & Intel agencies.
In addition, the acquisition of ERPI brought us into the VA. This, combined with our HHS and DHA work, has expanded our health IT market position and enables us to provide our government health customers with proven solutions and lessons learned across similar use cases such as electronic health care records modernization and better benefit administration and many others.
We have also grown our work at DHS, DOJ, Energy, Treasury, and the DOD COCOMs, built on years of partnership and driving value to those customers through innovative solutions tailored to their specific priorities. We continue to see opportunities with these customers over the next few years.”
ExecutiveBiz: How does ECS ensure long-term success for your workforce to drive value for your employees as you continue to face the uphill challenge to recruit and retain the best talent in the federal marketplace?
John Heneghan: “There is a lot to unpack here, but it starts with our purpose. ECS believes in taking on the challenges that matter most and will have a lasting impact for our customers and employees as well as our shareholders and communities.
We do all that through a commitment to excellence in four areas: customer delivery, technical innovation, employee engagement, and business operations. We are passionate about these commitments. They guide and frame everything that we do at ECS. You can feel that energy when you walk into the buildings or even participate in our virtual meetings.
People want to be a part of the missions that we support. They want the opportunity to work and collaborate with other talented individuals on meaningful challenges. That commitment fuels our growth, which is a hallmark of ECS. We create new opportunities for our employees to grow and are able to invest more in our employees.”
ExecutiveBiz: What are some things that ECS is focused on regarding talent recruitment and management?
John Heneghan: “First, we have an annual employee survey. We use these results to generate ideas and help us understand employee sentiment, and inform our strategic and operating plan for the following year. Additionally, the survey helps us determine actions we must take immediately to create greater opportunities for employee engagement. The survey really gives a voice to all employees.
Of course, we offer robust, flexible, best-in-class compensation and benefits packages which include tuition and professional development reimbursement. Every year, we assess our package to see what more we can offer our employees.
We also operate our Centers of Excellence (CoE) that form communities of practice around core solutions such as AI, cloud, applications services, and cybersecurity. The CoEs create great connectivity and information exchange across the organization, which only drives greater employee engagement, community, opportunity, and recognition. They also ensure the best of ECS is shared with our customers.
Outside our internal communities, ECS is committed to supporting the larger communities to which we belong. In fact, community is an ECS core value, and we are proud of the philanthropic work we do.
In addition to tons of local and team-based or employee resource group-based philanthropic events, ECS supports several large charitable causes like Childhelp for victims of child abuse and child abuse prevention, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and the Washington Choral Arts Society, to name a few. We also manage two quarterly philanthropy programs:
ECS Engage is a grant program where employees request a grant from ECS for a community charity with which they are personally involved. Each quarter the Engage board members, which consists of a cross-section of our employee base, determine fund distribution among the applicants.
ECS Cares is another program where we choose a few charities to support each quarter, and usually, it’s topical. This past year, we focused one quarter on supporting the Afghan refugees, and our most recent was to support Ukraine refugees. The company matches all employee contributions.
We also support charities for underrepresented communities in the tech field to build up diversity in science and technology.
Lastly, I’ll mention our DEI vision, another essential commitment to our continued success. We are revamping our DEI roadmap and programming. I am excited about the progress there.”
ExecutiveBiz: In recent years, what are some of the biggest improvements you’ve seen in the way we talk and think about innovation across the federal sector since the rise of cybersecurity, AI/ML, 5G, and other emerging technologies?
John Heneghan: “One of the biggest improvements I have seen is we aren’t just talking about innovation anymore. We are moving beyond ideation and implementing full innovation lifecycles. In fact, innovation in procurement structures and policy is on the rise and facilitates the implementation of innovative ideas, products, and solutions.
Nowadays, many large complex acquisitions require offerors to propose an innovation approach or dictate how we follow a government-developed process. They often include incentives for beneficial outcomes to the customers resulting from those implemented innovations.
The move toward agile and DevSecOps delivery is becoming an accepted way of doing business across the government sector, creating an easier path for innovation. We don’t have to convince customers anymore that agile is the way to go.
There are two technology areas that I mentioned earlier that I also believe are helping our customers innovate. The first is AI/ML. The advancements are incredible. I believe that we are only at the beginning of the AI/ML journey. I am excited about the impact this technology is already having in supporting our customers’ missions.
ECS is at the front of this technology curve, having supported the development of key AI/ML solutions for over five years and has operationalized solutions that:
Identify and classify terrain vehicles, boats and aircraft types, uniforms, and various weapons and weapons systems from satellite data, camera and video feeds, drone feeds, sensor data, and PAI in order to provide invaluable and actionable data regarding everything from force movements and capabilities, damage and lethality assessments, and war crime forensic–all being used in Eastern Europe today. We are also able to trace object movements for near real-time analysis or forensic analysis.
We use this same AI technology to support emergency response and search and rescue efforts during a crisis—identifying where damage is most severe, where people are most impacted, down to specific people in need of rescue, and the best method or logistics to support rescue and response efforts. We can track wildfire lines and predict progress and direction based on wind and other weather factors.
We have built AI solutions that make sonar detections that identify both man-made and organic objects from sonar sensor data for military and intelligence and scientific research. I am extremely proud of the work we are doing to apply AI and analytics to support the sustainability of our oceans and important fisheries.
We led Project SALUS, which provided an AI-driven predictive analytics platform for the pandemic response, medical equipment, blood supply chain logistics, and other medical operations and readiness requirements. This solution also helps provide global health surveillance.
With all this data out there and the criticality of information operations in warfare and intelligence efforts, cybersecurity is a second capability bringing innovation and has also had to evolve, become more dynamic, and more AI-driven.
For instance, the ECS Pathfinder tool applies AI algorithms to open source and deep and dark web information relating to cyber threats and cyber-threat actors to improve U.S.-based cyber defense.
Zero-trust has become the newest buzzword and seems to be attached now in marketing to every tool or product out there, but ECS has been focused on this framework for years. We take our customers beyond the ‘hype’ of the marketplace and extend trust to the user and the data layers, not just the network and user device layers.
We help our customers identify the information needed to be collected and analyzed to enable real-time threat and risk-driven actions. We help them dynamically manage and control user access and the data they are accessing. With solutions like ECS’ managed security platform and Pathfinder, we are able to model, configure, collect, and understand the end-to-end trust chain.”