In an era where the recent government shutdown has blanketed the nation, it has become evident that swift change is occurring and will continue to occur in the public and private sectors.
Robin Lineberger believes that with crisis brings tremendous opportunity for increased innovation, improvements in workflow efficiency, and increased workplace productivity.
After serving as CEO of Deloitte Federal Government Services for four years, Lineberger took on the role of Senior Advisor to Deloitte’s aerospace and defense customers in July 2013. We asked Lineberger to provide insight regarding the Professional Services Council (PSC)’s recent report, “From Crisis to Opportunity: Creating a New Era of Government Efficiency, Innovation and Performance,” a report he Co-wrote with Stan Soloway, President and CEO of PSC.
Lineberger brings 24 years of experience as a solutions strategist and systems integration specialist with BearingPoint, and four years of development and testing as a commissioned officer with the U.S. Air Force. As a writer, Lineberger has co-authored The Art of Business Process Management and the Johnson Space Center’s Work Process Improvement Guidebook.
WashingtonExec spoke with Lineberger about his new role at Deloitte, his predictions for the 2014 market outlook, the recent Professional Services Council’s report on ushering in a new era of workplace productivity and efficiency, as well as his legacy as CEO of Deloitte Federal Government Services.
WashingtonExec: Can you describe your new role at Deloitte and how the transition has been going?
Robin Lineberger: My new role is Senior Advisor to our current and future aerospace and defense customers: a natural progression for me as I’ve spent many years focused on the federal, defense and civilian agencies. Having been the CEO of a near $2 billion government service provider, I have a pretty good understanding of the challenges current CEOs face, ranging from budget austerity through increasing regulatory regime, to human capital challenges and capital shortages in the marketplace.
How has it been going? I’ve been spending a lot of time out in the market meeting and talking with senior executives of those major firms to get a sense of where they are in the transition, the challenges that they are facing today and really helping them now shift and cut their way to stability but that’s not a long term business model. Now that they have started again to take the action of taking cost out, restructuring, realigning. This is where we are starting the dialogue. It’s very robust, there’s a high interest in those discussions because everyone falls into the trap of focusing on cost cutting, we’re here and getting a good response as to when we start thinking about the growth opportunities domestically and internationally.
“Fundamentally we need a career track that blends technology and acquisition together in a way that creates individuals that understand and can deal with the rapid change of technology and be able to acquire it through the services acquisition.”
WashingtonExec: You were the CEO for Deloitte Federal at a very significant time in Deloitte’s history, what is one of your proudest achievements?
Robin Lineberger: I’m most proud of the two key outcomes through the acquisition of Bearing Point. The first is near 100% acceptance of people moving over from Bearing Point to Deloitte. Deloitte offered such an attractive platform for them to continue their careers; those employees as well as their families coming over and having a successful career trajectory in, one might argue, the most difficult financial times that we’ve had in our working careers. I’m very proud of the fact that we were able to bring that many people over to Deloitte, nearly everyone over to Deloitte.
Secondly, to have through the acquisition; the years of the acquisition, the post-acquisition integration right up through this past year which included the front end of sequestration we managed to grow anywhere from 8-14%. We were able to rapidly integrate, focus on the marketplace and really bring the power of the two firms to the market at a time when it was flat to negative. Those are the two highlight accomplishments of my tenure.
WashingtonExec: We interviewed you in January for your 2013 market outlook, do you think your predictions will hold true going into 2014?
Robin Lineberger: The opportunities we will see in 2014 will be around the core mission functions of the agencies. In Defense we understand what those are. We understand the Intel market and if you are in Homeland Security it’s going to be about making sure that our flights, railways and transportations are secure and that our borders are secure. When you move into organizations like the Department of Education (DOEd) or the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we need to make sure that we have a solid education system and safe housing for those who need it.
In terms of technology play, I think what we are going to see an extension of the mobility; particularly security across the enterprise. There will be an extension of ERP to the mobile platform so that organizations that have invested in the financial systems or logistics systems will now start deploying the front end of mobile technology. As IP addresses become more pervasive and that each individual item product has its own electronics in it and has its own IP address, it will be about starting to utilize those internet addresses and again, bringing everything into the enterprise and visibility over those regardless of where they are.
WashingtonExec: Do you think the federal space is past investing in mobile through pilot programs?
Robin Lineberger: I think it will be at two levels. I think device deployment is going to scale. It won’t be pilots and prototypes, the devices are moving out there and making sure that deploying enterprise security for the mobile devices with limited capabilities and then what you will see is that then deployment of increasing applications or functionalities to those devices. I think we are past the pilot phase. We are seeing acquisitions that are going scale to the enterprise level; places like the Department of Agriculture and certain components of the Department of Defense. I think we are past the pilot of the hand held mobile devices themselves, that model was all about scale deployment. Now it will be about extending functionality to that with legacy as well as new systems.
“The idea of the report was to go above and beyond the resistance in the system and to find visibility of these issues up to the right levels and as a broader group so that we can take action. I also want to point out that it is not just what the government needs to do. We are very clear that there are some things that industry needs to look at as well.”
WashingtonExec: What feedback have you received from the federal government and government contracting sectors regarding the Professional Services Council “From Crisis to Opportunity: Creating a New Era of Government Efficiency, Innovation and Performance” report?
Robin Lineberger: We have nearly 20 commissionaires that represented over 300 member firms at PSC. There is never unanimity in anything we do in the market but certainly we have a broad consensus opinion of the key executives of those firms.
Upfront we sought government’s input, our counterparts, through the analysis and then to test our ideas of workability, and feasibility. On the whole there’s general acceptance but there has been feedback and resistance in areas we expected; which is ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’. We are ok with that. The idea of the report was to go above and beyond the resistance in the system and to find visibility of these issues up to the right levels and as a broader group so that we can take action. I also want to point out that it is not just what the government needs to do. We are very clear that there are some things that industry needs to look at as well.
Frankly we are starting to get some agreement in the government at the highest levels; both directly in response to our observations in the Commission as well as independently. You start to see senior government officials start to go back and say ‘we need more case-by-case infrastructure, rather than sort of the one size fits all’. We are pleased with that feedback already.
WashingtonExec: Could you elaborate on one aspect of the major recommendations: restructuring acquisition and technology workforce development and training around a “corporate university” model, to include new online education tools and techniques focused on critical thinking and business acumen, rather than the traditional “brick and mortar” model?
Robin Lineberger: This recommendation is particularly targeted for the civilian agencies part of the business. The defense business which has a fairly structured acquisition workforce and that’s what we call the “Big A”. They are historically taught & built on how to buy big hardware; aircraft carriers, submarines, etc. Services provisioning, however is an area that’s not well defined and as well structured. When you look at the civilian agencies there is no one place or consolidated place that civilian agencies, non-defense agencies can go to get trained on acquisition in the same way that the DOD has it structured. That is the background to a couple of other points – the challenges in the professional services acquisition is typically around the acquisition of technology integration services and the services going forward. We think there will be challenges. Technology turns very rapidly is number one.
Number two is that it takes a different business acumen and set of skills to be able to acquire effectively technology related professional services. Fundamentally we need a career track that blends technology and acquisition together in a way that creates individuals that understand and can deal with the rapid change of technology and be able to acquire it through the services acquisition. In order to accomplish that we felt like we needed to have a well-defined career path and a centralized place where the curriculum around that could be taught and then changed rapidly as the needs, technologies and the approaches to acquiring the technologies change fairly rapidly – that’s why. We felt we needed a place where we could maintain core curriculum rapidly, deploy it virtually and in a rapid and broad base session.
“We are starting to get some agreement in the government at the highest levels; both directly in response to our observations in the Commission as well as independently. You start to see senior government officials start to go back and say ‘we need more case-by-case infrastructure, rather than sort of the one size fits all’.”
WashingtonExec: How would you summarize the Commission’s overall findings and goals?
Robin Lineberger: There was a growing concern on the part of professional service providers that the government was moving way too far in the direction of low price technically acceptable (LPTA). We had a mid and long-term concern that if you just buy what is minimally capable that at some point we are going to begin stifling and eliminating the innovation. If you can envision a continuum on the left hand side of a highly commoditized service that doesn’t require a lot of original thought or innovation and creativity – moving to the other end of the continuum where we are trying to develop a one of a kind think, basic research and development. You are looking for innovation where you need creative, critical thinkers, highly educated – you get the sense of where I’m going here trying to build this continuum. Where the innovation happens and the creativity on the right hand of the spectrum – if you use an acquisition method, a services acquisition method that is really for the left hand part of that continuum, if we start to see it applied to the right hand part of the continuum it would have the impact of driving innovation out in our service delivery and have a mid and long-term effect on the quality and excellence of the delivery in government.
We offered up a model, a taxonomy, that allows them to utilize that if the service has these characteristics here is the acquisition method that we should use for that characterized service so that we can get what we want which is the service levels at the low end, at the right price and we can get the creativity and innovation at a value added price at the right hand of that spectrum. That was the other key driver – this really big shift in the services acquisition approach.
WashingtonExec: We’ve interviewed you before about the Leukemia Ball, the Wounded Warrior Project and have spoken with your wife about the mission of The Fishing School. What community projects are you focusing on in 2013 and 2014?
Robin Lineberger: As a part of our key pillar in our diversity, the firm has developed a dimension of veterans. It is a new category of diversity focused on around veterans, similar to our race, culture, and gender initiatives. Deloitte is an early supporter and sponsor of the American Corporate Partners (ACP). ACP always has applications and interest from veterans transitioning out of the military and into the civilian workforce – looking for executives, particularly executives that have gone through that successfully to help mentor and guide the individuals. We have a one year cycle with a veteran that has or is planning on transitioning out to help them through that process of re-assimilating back into the civilian industry. They are providing career guidance, based upon the stages that they are in. Those people don’t work in the company that you are in as part of it as well. It’s working with others. Those are two things that I will emphasize this year in addition to continuing to support the Wounded Warrior Games as we made a commitment to them through 2020 – so continuing to support that as well.