It’s been six months since Dan Allen was appointed Chairman and CEO of Serco Inc. WashingtonExec caught up with Allen about his plans for the organization, where he sees growth in the federal marketplace, Serco’s talent acquisition strategy, and Serco’s work with the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) health benefit exchange program.
Allen went on to answer a couple of personal questions; including working in close proximity to his wife Sarah Allen, executive vice president and chief human resources officer of Leidos, advice from his mentor Mike Chandler, former President of General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), and his exposure to leadership as a young man.
Serco is a $7.5 billion global organization with a broad portfolio of Defense, Transportation, Health, and Citizen Services for federal, state & local and commercial customers across 30 countries; Allen runs Serco Inc., the $1.2 billion U.S. and Canada business with approximately 10,000 employees.
“When I joined Serco, we had a well-defined transition plan, but that quickly changed within 10 days when Serco Group’s CEO resigned. The expedited transition was a perfect reminder that the world is changing every day. We’ve got to be flexible and keep improving otherwise the world will leave you behind,” said Allen. “It’s been an interesting 6 months and I’m enjoying my role at Serco and just as important, I am having a lot of fun.”
Allen went on to say, “When I began my profession, I had a mindset that I had to change jobs every two years. I figured ‘if you are not moving you are probably not growing or expanding.’ That mindset changed as I assumed broader leadership roles in companies. I plan to be here at Serco for the long haul and want to be a major contributor to achieving Serco’s vision of becoming the world’s greatest service provider.”
“I plan to be here at Serco for the long haul and want to be a major contributor to achieving Serco’s vision of becoming the world’s greatest service provider.”
How does Allen plan to transform Serco in a declining federal budget space? Allen believes that knowing who you are, expanding what makes you better than your competitors, and taking a laser focus on attractive markets are the keys to sustainable growth.
“As we focus our priorities on key markets where we have been very successful like government healthcare, transportation, and C4ISR, we believe we will continue to be a very competitive and a growth leader in our industry,” Allen said.
He views the rise of LPTA (low price technically acceptable)-issued contracts not as a temporary tool for the federal government, but as process where price will be the dominant factor in the federal acquisition process for years to come.
“Two or three years ago when it first became a more popular approach, a lot of customers used LPTA, even if it was not the appropriate vehicle for what they were trying to buy. Many federal customers are still learning how to utilize LPTA in areas where it can apply. As a service provider to the Federal government, it is our responsibility to help bring value to that process,” Allen told WashingtonExec.
We questioned Allen if he believes the uptick in mergers, acquisitions and consolidation in federal defense contracting will continue through this year and beyond. Allen, still finalizing the organization’s overall strategy, sees M&A as a component for growth at Serco, but believes the company has an untapped resource in cross-selling many of its global services and capabilities in the U.S. and Canada.
“One feature that has fueled our recent success is being able to build channels to our Serco colleagues in the UK and Australia to bring world-class solutions and capabilities here to the US. Serco is a large global company with over 100,000 employees and a lot of experience in providing service delivery excellence that we could utilize in the U.S. and Canada. All of this is organic growth,” Allen stated.
Allen also spoke about Serco’s $1.2 billion U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) health benefit exchanges support contract win. He sees the five year contract as a game-changer for Serco.
“We are a part of the Affordable Care Act Program. Of course our objective is to deliver on our contract, but at Serco we want to take service delivery to a higher level by having an unrelenting focus on truly making a difference for the end user, our customer’s customers. In this case, it is those millions of US citizens who are looking to gain access to healthcare.”
How does Allen plan to hire the top talent needed to execute Serco’s recent contract wins as well as cultivate organization’s staff of 10,000? He says the key to an organization’s success is to find individuals who share mutual respect, values, and vision to be world class and can leverage each other to achieve more than they otherwise would have achieved as individuals.
“We are always looking for talented people to join our team who share our aspirations. Just as important, I really believe in developing the people already on the team and it’s been a part of who I am as long as I have been in a leadership role. That’s our goal,” Allen said.
“…I really believe in developing the people already on the team and it’s been a part of who I am as long as I have been in a leadership role. That’s our goal.”
From entry-level to the C-Suite, every leader is shaped by their first brush with responsibility; we asked Allen what leadership roles he took on as a child and if he believes those roles continue to shape him in today’s corporate world.
“I was a Boy Scout and a leader inside of my troop. I started in cub scouts because on the military bases in Japan, Okinawa and Fort Meade, the scout troop was a way people could come together and share something in common. It was a great experience and taught me some strong values that I still carry with me today,” said Allen.
Mike Chandler, former President of General Dynamics Information Systems until March 2008, served as Allen’s mentor for over 5 years. Chandler guided Allen throughout his years at GTE and GDIT, including supporting his pursuits at the National Defense University (NDU) and prepared him to take on broader leadership roles within the federal government contracting space.
“Mike helped me move from being a tactical leader – as a lead software engineer and program manager – to being a leader than can manage a larger, complex organization with a central theme of extending my horizon. I needed to expand my mindset of focusing on what’s happening in the immediate future, to thinking about a more long-term strategic view,” Allen said.
Throughout his senior roles as Sector Vice President and General Manager of Northrop Grumman’s Intelligence Systems Division, to CEO of CACI, and now as CEO of Serco Inc., Allen has had a partner and confidant in his wife, Sarah Allen, Chief Human Resources Officer at Leidos.
“How many of us work difficult issues throughout the day and look for a trusted person to brainstorm or bounce ideas off? To have my wife Sarah, an executive in the HR world, to bring a fresh perspective is very helpful. She has been a great partner professionally and personally over the last ten years, said Allen.
In 2013, Serco celebrated its 25 year anniversary. Allen told us that anniversary gave the company a reason to look back and recognize the success they have achieved. But just like his mentor Mike Chandler taught him, Allen is focused on the future and how to set up Serco for greater success over the next 25 years.