You probably saw the memo: Just last month, the White House asked Congress to establish a $3 billion revolving fund to help federal agencies upgrade their aging IT systems. While large systems integrators will want a piece of the pie, they’ll be facing formidable competition from mid-sized businesses.
Yes, mid-sized players like Octo Consulting Group are reshaping the rules of engagement, going head to head with larger players, and in many cases, beating out the competition. As multi-year system integration efforts give way to shorter term projects, fueled by more flexible, agile approaches, federal clients have quicker, and more immediate, expectations. As Mehul Sanghani, CEO of Octo Consulting Group, puts it, they “aren’t going to be as patient when looking for results.”
“There is an aging infrastructure for a lot of agency mission systems – and government has really seen the need for modernization of those systems,” says Sanghani. That need spells big opportunity for mid-size companies in the areas of agile application development, user experience and design, and transitioning legacy applications to cloud-based infrastructures that reduce the total cost of ownership.
“Companies that are prepared to address these areas are the ones poised for success,” says Sanghani. “We feel strongly that companies that are in the middle tier, as opposed to large organizations that don’t necessarily have the flexibility to adapt, will be the ones most-poised to address federal customer needs.”
It’s not just size that distinguishes a competitor; so does the right certification. In an industry littered with firms that have adopted CMMI certifications to varying degrees, Octo Consulting Group takes its own certifications a step further: Recently, the company has secured CMMI Maturity Level 4 using agile projects to achieve that appraisal level. That focus has helped the company meet all eight process areas associated with the certification level, especially in the area of quantitative management, thereby equipping the firm with the historical data needed to maintain projects within scope, budget and quality.
In addition, the firm has achieved ISO 9001, ISO 20000 and ISO 27000 certifications, and is one of only a handful of government contractors, many of them large systems integrators, that have earned the distinction of being a Scaled Agile Framework Gold Partner, an industry-approved framework for developing software applications using agile development standards.
“To have this independent certification – to say that we operate at a level of maturity that other entities don’t – is critical for us,” says Sanghani. “We think that CMMI, in combination with the scaled agile certification that we have, gives us the ability not only to talk about what it is we do – and what makes us different – but to point to independent validation of our process maturity to successfully meet our customers’ IT needs as a premier mid-market provider of digital services,” he says.
On the heels of those certifications, Octo is building on its rallying cry: “The next rung on the ladder.” Over the last two years, especially, the company has shifted to larger, more complex work, securing key wins, such as a $34 million National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) agile web presence contract.
Octo has also been addressing another critical area: the millennial tsunami that lies ahead, as the demographic is set to comprise 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020. For Sanghani, successful recruitment – and retention – of millennials means focusing on their soft spot: meaningful work.
“We think, from the perspective of having meaningful work, showing that we are engaged in the community – and showing that we empower millennials to have a voice in the leadership – are both critically important,” says Sanghani.
Octo leadership gives millennials a say in the company through the recent formation of its “Up and Coming Leadership Council,” in which millennial employees work alongside Octo’s executive team to formulate decisions that drive the firm’s strategy. Giving back is also important to the company. In recent years, Octo has received The Washington Business Journal’s Corporate Philanthropy Award, and is an active member in the STEM community, participating in Women in Technology, and as part of Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors and its Board for the College of Engineering. Octo has also successfully recruited from institutions such as Virginia Tech, offering internships, in areas such as web development and system engineering that have translated into full-time jobs.
An eye on the future – both from a CMMI perspective – and with a focus on millennial retention – spells increased growth for Octo, just as it takes on the bigger players, and continues to leave its mark upgrading legacy infrastructures.