In his current role, Shrivastava is tasked with expanding revenue and growth, advancing the company’s objectives and providing corporate leadership in order to ensure satisfaction on the customer and employee fronts. ARRAY is an IT service and product firm that has been operating for more than 15 years.
Shrivastava spoke to WashingtonExec about ARRAY’s plans to transition from a small business to becoming a mid-tier federal contractor, about current trends in the IT sector, about his involvement with the Washington, D.C. chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs, and the way in which his father influenced his leadership style.
WashingtonExec: As President of ARRAY, what would you say is the ultimate goal for the firm in the next 5 years?
Sumeet Shrivastava: ARRAY’s management team is very familiar with the many issues that companies face as they transition from an 8(a)small business into the mid-tier, full and open market organization. Historically, some of those issues have included a lack of a business base that translates into the full and open market, not having vehicles that allow for a multi-year transition strategy, and not having an assortment of differentiated solutions offerings with the capability to be competitive in the full and open market. ARRAY has spent the last couple of years executing to a strategy that addresses these types of common transition problems. Our goal for the next five years for the firm is to really take the foundation that we have laid down, and successfully transform the company into a mid-tier federal contractor.
For us, everything starts with the management team and employees of ARRAY and investing heavily in bringing nationally recognized thought leadership into the organization. Over the last two years we have brought in experts in the areas of legacy modernization, large scale system integration solutions, enterprise information management, and experts in mission areas like national security and defense logistics. In addition, our recent contract vehicle wins with the United States Air Force give us a multi-year opportunity to continue to build the base and grow into a solid mid-tier organization.
WashingtonExec: What do you think will be the next big technological innovation to hit the government contacting scene?
Sumeet Shrivastava: I am not sure that I could predict the next big technological innovation but I do see a market opportunity in two major areas. The first one is really a process innovation, whereby federal IT organizations are enabled to execute their mission in a much more rapid model similar to how products are brought to market in the private sector. That being said, we do recognize that there is a scale and complexity to federal agencies that are relatively unparalleled in commercial industry. For example, the idea of intra-enterprise integration is something that a commercial enterprise like Wal-Mart has been doing in its supply chain for many years, but it is a big stretch to say that is equivalent to the way in which a Department of Defense service, like the Air Force, has to integrate with other services, such as Joint Commands and Coalition partners, while leveraging an infrastructure that encompasses space, airborne, land, and marine platforms. This especially comes into play when you consider the intense testing and integration activities that must occur at every one of these layers.
The second place I see market opportunity is that there will inevitably be a need for those in federal IT to address the expected budget problem during the course of the next few years; companies will be tasked with modernizing their aging IT assets through the limited O&M budgets that will be available. This will require people to think outside the box in terms of how they currently manage their portfolios. Companies should consider, in particular, where they could divest assets or harvest existing capability for new requirements.
WashingtonExec: What are some of the challenges IT leaders like you face in the federal marketplace?
Sumeet Shrivastava: This is the easiest question you have asked because the recent history of continuing resolutions and lack of budget clarity has created a significant amount of uncertainty in our client base, the Federal government IT leadership — and that is completely understandable. Not knowing what your budget is begins to wreak havoc on your company’s ability to plan anything. We are one ring out from that as a service provider, and that exponentially increases the amount of uncertainty we have when we try to plan our investments.
“The private sector has a profit motive and a market place that certainly drives a significant amount of innovation when it comes time to speed to market. We often forget, however, that for every innovation that becomes the next iPhone or Facebook in the private sector space, there are thousands of failed projects or “innovations.”
WashingtonExec: Who do you think is further along when it comes to IT innovation: the government or the private sector?
Sumeet Shrivastava: That is an apples and oranges type of question. The private sector has a profit motive and a market place that certainly drives a significant amount of innovation when it comes time to speed to market. They also have the benefit of a longer term investment planning horizon for that innovation. We often forget, however, that for every innovation that becomes the next iPhone or Facebook in the private sector space, there are thousands of failed projects or “innovations.” There is a significant amount of innovation in certain pockets of the government; however, government IT is hampered by many structural impediments that really makes it hard for the well-intentioned individual to innovate. This structural impediment starts with the severely limited time line with which budgets get created and appropriated to the forever increasing layers of oversight and compliance that is prescribed. These many new laws and regulations continually build upon previous guidance while rarely taking anything away from the job jar.
WashingtonExec: How did your father influence your leadership style and/or your success in business?
Sumeet Shrivastava: To a great degree, I feel that almost everything I have achieved to this point in my career has been based on my father’s influence. When you grow up having a Dad who is SBA’s National Entrepreneur of the Year and could walk into a Black-Tie industry event with a thousand people and have a line start forming to talk to him, there is something inside that tells you that you need to learn from this guy, even if he is your father! I feel fortunate that I got to spend nine years working for him and see all of that up close. What I saw was an individual who went out of his way to mentor and help anyone who came to him for assistance. He spent an enormous amount of time trying to remove the obstacles in front of the people who worked for him so that their lives and jobs could be easier. He also constantly put the interest of clients and employees ahead of the interest of the organization. His philosophy was ‘if I can make sure my employees and clients are happy, then the organization will succeed.’ One of the most important things I learned from him was that the little things count more than you think. This meant simple things like pats on the back, remembering birthdays, names of spouses and children or creating a fun work environment. That, more than anything, is something I have remembered and aspire to execute on a daily basis.
WashingtonExec: You are a charter member of TiE DC. Can you talk a little about the organization and why you wanted to be part of it?
Sumeet Shrivastava: TiE’s mission is to foster entrepreneurship globally through mentoring, networking, and education. TiE-DC is one of 61 chapters that operate across 17 countries and focuses on the DC metro region. Being a charter member has provided me access to many successfully entrepreneurs and executives across the region who have continued to help me grow and better execute within the organizations of which I form a part. An added benefit, which I love, that comes with being a charter member is the access and ability to mentor up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Something I learned from my Dad when I first started working was that you can learn as much from being a mentor as from being the protégé and I have certainly found that to be true.
Shrivastava also offered us his market outlook for the coming year. Read it here.