TOP 100: Booz Allen takes historic approach to tough times

Booz Allen Hamilton put its faith in cost controls, customer focus and innovation as it worked its way through a year plagued with uncertainty, budget cuts and a government shutdown.

Trust that a company that’s been around for a century knows how to handle tough times like a 16-day government shutdown: “We furloughed and laid off no one during that period of time,” said Joe Logue, executive vice president of defense at Booz Allen Hamilton.

“We took a very aggressive posture about holding costs down at the first half of the year just because the marketplace was shifting dramatically,” he said.

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During the shutdown, the company shifted its people around, put them in training or kept them working on proposals in other areas, and kept them on overhead. “We’re able to take care of our people, which is critically important,” Logue said.

It was Booz Allen’s resolve during the shutdown paired with a number of other successes that landed the company the No. 7 spot on Washington Technology’s 2014 Top 100 with $3.4 billion in prime contracts.

The company has won several important contracts over the past year. One that stood out for Logue was a $900 million C4ISR contract that the company won with SPAWAR SSC Atlantic.

But that’s not all: the company has landed a $250 million program management and financial support services contract, a spot on a $4.1 billion battlefield communications contract, and even the long-anticipated $22 billion Eagle II contract that was recently awarded.

Aside from contracts, the company has made a number of strategic moves in order to better position itself in the market. For one, the company has set up what it calls the Strategic Innovation Group. Led by executive vice president Karen Dahut, the group promotes innovation with Booz Allen’s clients.

“We took about 1,500 of our folks and put them in our Strategic Innovation Group and focused them on next generation problems and technologies that need to be faced by our client base – everything from big data analytics, cloud computing, next generation C4ISR, tactical clouds, C4ISR in clouds and others,” Logue said.

As part of this group, the company has created a partnership with 1776, which is a startup incubator in Washington, D.C. “We’re working with them to take our skills, our innovation, our concepts along with theirs and try to work together to solve complex problem. In general, it gives us another vantage point into areas where we can innovate, and it’s also a way for some of these smaller companies to work with us to innovate with our clients, as well,” Logue said.

The company has also set up a strategic alliance program with companies like Amazon Web Services, Apple and Microsoft to utilize one another’s concepts and channels in order to bring solutions to the federal government, he said. The alliance programs also help with international and commercial markets.

Internally, Booz Allen Hamilton has been streamlining its operations so that it has a good line of sight into the opportunities the company is pursuing and the work it is trying to accomplish. The changed give senior associates and principals confidence that the business can operate in an agile manner, Logue said.

That’s especially important in the wake of 2013, the aftermath of which is being felt by everyone.

“We’re starting to feel it a little bit,” Logue said, but he was hopeful about the future.

“Having a budget helps,” he said. For the first time in two years, “our clients actually know what they have, and we are finally starting to see them break free and make some decisions about spending more than three months at a time,” he said.

Being around for 100 years, Booz Allen tends to think about the long term. Agencies are finally able to do that now. Still, Logue said, there are some tough decisions to be made, but he feels confident that the company’s hundred-year tenure is proof that it can handle tough situations.

The company plans to move further into commercial and international marketplaces. “We have ramped up our business particularly in the Middle East and North Africa,” Logue said.

The type of work is not war-related, but rather commercial. Booz Allen is working with other companies in the financial services, energy, health sectors, Logue said.

“We’re starting to see some momentum there, and we’re continuing to invest in [those areas],” he said.

All in all though, what it takes to be successful in today’s market is the same thing that it’s taken to be successful in the past: put a premium on your clients and stick with them.

“If there’s some place to be, whether times are good or bad, it’s with your client helping them figure out what their problem is, and helping them get to the next phase, and this has never been more true than it is today,” Logue said.

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