Vince Vlasho, Defense Portfolio lead for Accenture Federal Services (AFS), recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the company's five-year, $89.5 million contract to establish a cloud-based common infrastructure for the U.S. Air Force’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.
“On the Air Force ERP contract, one of the highlights that we're really proud of is that we not only talk the talk, but also we walk the walk. We bring our commercial capabilities to these clients and we will deliver on the most complex DoD challenges.
The program manager is coming from our commercial business and has tremendous depth in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems through his experience on many commercial ERP programs. Accenture's global Oracle Cloud lead will also have a vital leadership role in guiding this important program.
The key point is that two of the leadership roles in this program are filled by our commercial business, which I think is going to be key in helping the Air Force achieve a successful outcome. Our commercial business will provide best practices and lessons learned. We know what works and how to avoid pitfalls that sometimes exist in these larger and more complex integration programs.“
ExecutiveBiz: How will the company leverage its cloud and AI services to support the U.S. Air Force?
“Cloud is a strategic priority for Accenture Federal Services. One of the areas that I’m keenly focused on is supporting the Department of Defense (DoD) in its continued migration to the cloud. AFS offers a variety of capabilities that we bring to the fight and the DoD mission transfer to the cloud.
What is unique about us is that AFS is powered by Accenture, so we have access to the tremendously capable commercial side of our business and we continually pull resources and capabilities from them to support our defense clients.
The Air Force has done a nice job overall in its move to the cloud. This program will be a linchpin to a unified ERP approach, crucial to enabling the Air Force with better access to its data as well as integrating financial, logistics, and personnel processes across the department. With this contract, we are now providing support to three major ERP Systems for the Air Force.
The systems include the Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System (DEAMS) and the Air Force Integrated Personnel and Pay System (AFIPPS), which is one of the major programs where we serve as the integrator. The third major ERP is the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Initiative (MROi).
DEAMS is currently in production and the Air Force is delivering enhancements and maintenance. The other two are under development. All three of these programs have similar support requirements.
For example, the most recently awarded program takes the common services that each program requires and delivers those capabilities under one contract vehicle that can be leveraged across all three of the major ERP programs and their respective needs. The Air Force vision is to create a unified platform in the cloud. By doing so, they will achieve cost efficiencies and receive better support for each of the programs from a common service base.“
ExecutiveBiz: How has AFS' work under Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System (DEAMS) prepared the company for this award?
“AFS supported DEAMS as a prime support contractor for many years, and that was our foray into the Air Force ERPs. That work gave us the situational awareness needed to understand the environment.
If you take our work on DEAMS and combine it with the fact that we’re the prime contractor on the AFIPPS program, in addition to supporting the Air Force's MROi program today, we have positioned ourselves to deliver proven capabilities. We understand and excel in the ERP space and have a vision for how we can best support the Air Force through a common cloud infrastructure and common support infrastructure across those three programs.
Every program will eventually need to move to the cloud and these common services will be essential. Every program is going to need similar support in making that migration as well, although each program will have unique needs that we will address. Our work will be a combination of a bespoke model for the programs as well as a common way of provisioning them.“
ExecutiveBiz: How will AFS integrate financial management, human resources, payroll and logistics to deliver a unified solution?
“One of the appeals of going to the cloud is that you move your data into a common cloud environment. Even if systems themselves may not be fully integrated and communicate with each other, all your data can exist in one place. Cloud computing is a centerpiece of federal IT modernization efforts and will help the Air Force become more agile and responsive while also boosting security and data accessibility.
So, after we move the three ERPs to the cloud infrastructure, the data for those three major systems will be in the cloud, enabling the Air Force to take a “˜big data' approach to analytics, improve IT service management and expand its use of artificial intelligence (AI).
Reporting across those programs today can be challenging because each of those three domains exist in its own vertical silo. With the help of AFS, the Air Force will enhance decision making through better and faster access to its data. When they’re making decisions across those three domains, the Air Force will be able to perform its mission better and faster.
I think you need to take a problem-based approach to AI, analytics and decision making. The first question to ask, after you fully understand the problem, is “˜what data do I need and where can I get it?'
The cloud enables the Air Force to have all of their data sources in one place. It will open the aperture on the types of questions that they can respond to and provide better answers.“
ExecutiveBiz: How can emerging technologies advance security and mitigate risk?
“When you look at moving to cloud architectures, DoD gets the best of both worlds. The cloud providers all have a very robust security infrastructure. DoD has integrated the risk management framework (RMF) that they use to assess and address vulnerabilities in systems to ensure that they’re operating at the right protection level. In addition, the DoD receives what Accenture brings to the table in terms of assets and capabilities we have developed around security operations centers to monitor the environments.
DoD has also launched the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), which will strengthen their industry partners' cybersecurity and cyber resiliency postures. Working collaboratively with its industry partners is a key success factor in DoD's overarching security posture.
Another key aspect of the common services, cloud, and IT service management is the ability to enable a much stronger risk management framework process leveraging our continuous monitoring/automated compliance control capabilities. This streamlines the RMF process while also hardening the new environment.“
ExecutiveBiz: As a leader in the GovCon sector, how does AFS remain competitive in the shifting market?
“AFS, powered by Accenture, is one of our major competitive advantages. We collaborate with our commercial business to understand the capabilities they have and stay in sync with them.
This commercial foundation also provides us leading edge solutions, proven, in key areas of 5G killer apps, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, and digital engineering to name a few. These capabilities are essential as this COVID-driven acceleration of digital transformation is upon us.
We also take a lot of pride in staying close to our customers and working with CIOs and acquisition leaders to continuously understand their needs and mission requirements. This allows us to know how we can best respond to challenges. AFS brings pragmatic innovation to our customers. By that I mean we bring innovative new ideas and capabilities to DoD and know how to deliver successfully for our clients. Those two things together enable us to offer new solutions that are executable and will yield real results.
Within Accenture we have growth platforms or capability groups for technology, management consulting, operations and more. Part of their charter is to look at the market environment to understand not only what is needed today, but also what will be needed to perform in the future.
From there, they build the capabilities the market is going to demand, so when the trends and needs hit the market, we have the resources and the talent that will answer those future challenges.“
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the current trends you see emerging in the marketplace?
“Cloud and cyber are definitely at the top of the list. Another area is AI and within AI, there are other subcomponents like robotic process automation (RPA). RPA is an area that we are seeing a lot of demand for in the market as well as for digital platforms.
Digital platforms offer robust capabilities at the enterprise level and allow capabilities to be delivered faster at a lower price point. Looking ahead, I have a team that’s assessing DoD's use of 5G to understand where we can deliver value that takes advantage of the enhanced performance that 5G offers.
In general, our thinking is that our 5G strategy is going to focus on killer apps that we can implement securely, with faster and higher bandwidth. Bringing in again our commercial practice, a great example is biomedical applications which is a great use case during COVID. We also have an effort around blockchain with one of our customers, and we're exploring how to use blockchain to better secure the supply chain, such as in fraud detection and fraud prevention.“
ExecutiveBiz: Any final thoughts?
“Innovation at speed is the new battleground. DoD services and agencies are increasingly adopting emerging and disruptive commercial technologies to advance their IT modernization programs. The modernization isn't new per se, but the acceleration most certainly is. This ultimately will increase their agility and responsiveness and keep them as the global leaders in performing their critical missions in support of our great nation. Innovation is constantly evolving. So must the military's ability to adapt and keep pace.“