Artificial intelligence has grown rapidly in the government procurement space in recent years. According to Rich Avesexecutive vice president of business development for the defense and intelligence sector Parsonswill AI be “the hallmark of solutions in the future”.
ExecutiveBiz spoke with Aves to learn more about how AI can be used across the federal landscape, what it takes to attract and retain talent that can support emerging mission needs, key contributing factors to Parsons’ recent growth and Lake.
Read Rich Aves’ full Executive Spotlight interview below.
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about recent growth initiatives at Parsons? How do you create value for your customers through contract awards, acquisitions and other aspects in the federal industry?
Rich Aves: Our recent growth has been based on a concerted effort to ‘move up the value chain’ for our customers. We achieve that by providing next-generation intelligent solutions that leverage the full capabilities of our pioneering and technically diverse organization, which spans two key market segments: critical infrastructure and federal solutions.
On the critical infrastructure side of our business, we leverage world-class engineering capabilities around the world, and we find that we can combine that with technology solutions and customer assets on the federal side of the house, driving positive results. That synergy has enabled us to provide truly unique and in many cases unique solutions to our customers and supports Parsons as a trusted source for micro and macro solutions – from Earth to space.
We also expanded our portfolio to broaden our defense capabilities through strategic acquisitions. Xator and BlackHorse, two of our more recent acquisitions, have significantly enhanced our offering by expanding our counter UAS and electronic warfare capabilities. The weaving of the Xator and BlackHorse capabilities into the Parsons portfolio has strengthened our overall growth and in many cases is leading the trajectory of our defense sector and we are focused on pursuing opportunities to be the premier provider of these differentiated solutions.
ExecutiveBiz: After the success of your recent quarterly results, what were the key factors that led to that company-wide performance and how will you continue to work to capitalize on that success going forward?
Aves: “We’ve had a very strong quarter and it’s been a team effort. From a revenue perspective, we are focused on maximizing and optimizing our opportunities. Achieving that goal starts with a solid team and we’ve had strong recruitment and retention across the company. This is critical to maintaining the high performing team needed to help us grow sales on existing contracts and position us for continued growth going forward.
We also had a good year in terms of growth. We have a number of standing job assignment contracts that we can send work to, which has been a good pillar of our growth this year. We’ve been able to use those contracts to meet the needs of a variety of customers and bring solutions to them. We have the contract vehicles to easily get into a revenue generating state.
In federal solutions and critical infrastructure, we’ve seen some pretty strong growth this year through awards. The critical infrastructure sector in particular is benefiting from international growth and the infrastructure law will create many opportunities for us to achieve greater results within our federal solutions sector in the future.
The markets we’re in are well-funded and growing, and we think we’re well positioned to grow. But the cornerstone of our success will always be execution, excellence and the ability to recruit and retain the right people, and so far we’ve done that very well.”
ExecutiveBiz: With artificial intelligence and machine learning dramatically impacting most industries and the US military as we move forward, what has most impressed you about the technology’s ability to improve decision-making in the federal sector? How can AI be used to address some of the biggest challenges in your industry?
Aves: “AI is a tool that all our customers need and want, and the main driver behind it is processing data and being able to make better, more informed decisions at scale and volume.
From a defense and intelligence standpoint, we see a lot of information that needs to be processed and analyzed, and it’s beyond the capacity of the human staff to make effective use of all the data available to us.
We’re leveraging the expertise we’ve had in this area for several years, and we’re using AI to make sure we’re making better-informed decisions.
We’re using that expertise on the critical infrastructure side on things like traffic volume metrics and using AI to develop smart cities — there’s a lot of data to put into that design. We look at things like 5G deployment and human behavior that will shape the landscape and scale of 5G infrastructure. When we can consume and streamline that data through the use of AI, we can take the guesswork out and design the infrastructure of the future that meets end-user needs.
On the space side of the house, we’re applying AI to do things like automate the ability to do ground control for satellites — we often call it “lights out operations,” where you don’t have a person behind a console to continuously control the ground controls of to perform a configuration. We can automate that, through artificial intelligence, to set the right parameters and have the right data analytics to make sure the best trade-offs are made when it comes to resources for things like antenna time.
We have also developed an AI algorithm for linking weapons targets called TEMPO, which stands for Tactical Electronic Warfare Machine Learning Planning Optimization. This is something we’ve produced from an electronic warfare perspective that optimizes our ability to deploy resources and defeat some of the adversary’s electronic warfare capabilities.
These are all things Parsons is involved in, and it’s exciting for us. We think AI will be a feature of future solutions in the future.”
ExecutiveBiz: We often discuss innovation from the technical or capability side. What are some of the unique challenges you’ve seen on the business side of innovation that haven’t been addressed or discussed enough?
Aves: “The challenge is to make the right decisions and innovate in the right spaces for the market you are in. I think Parsons has done a really good job of that, and that’s mostly driven by close communication with our customers and knowing the challenges we have to innovate against.
That’s one of the reasons we developed our PALADIN Lab at Aberdeen Proving Ground — it’s our hub for innovation, where we collaborate with customers to demonstrate new capabilities. Customers can come in and test these capabilities based on their mission needs and use the lab as a place to collaborate and identify the capabilities we should invest in that will provide the best value for their mission.
Innovation is at the heart of the culture here at Parsons, and it is very important to our sustainable growth. We’re in a tough recruiting environment and to attract the right talent, we need to understand that people want to get where innovation is paramount. People want to get where they can do cool things and develop cool new things – that’s been core to the way we approach the market and what we try to convey to those who would become potential employees.
Our motto is ‘Imagine Next’, which captures the essence of this team’s commitment to welcoming and developing innovative minds. As we continue to grow and execute our business, unbridled innovation will be necessary to stay relevant. That is a challenge we are happy to take on.