2018 Market Outlook: Dennis Kelly of Buchanan & Edwards

We look forward to a new year and new opportunities for innovation and growth in the government contracting community. This past year, we experienced an increased emphasis on big data, insider threat, merging technology with health care, and the internet of things, among others.

WashingtonExec reached out to those most knowledgeable and experienced in the federal contracting space. We asked executives in and around the Beltway for insight on the direction they see the government contracting community heading in 2018. Topics discussed include M&A activity, public/private sector collaboration, cloud computing, the incoming millennial workforce in defense/IT/healthcare, talent retention and more.​

Dennis Kelly, Buchanan & Edwards

Dennis Kelly, CEO of Buchanan & Edwards

Next in the series is Buchanan & Edwards CEO Dennis Kelly. He’s responsible for developing and executing an aggressive growth strategy that will expand the company’s solutions into the national security market. Here are his insights:

Headlining topics over the last couple years include merging technology with health care, cloud storage, big data, insider threat, and the internet of things, among others. What will be the main topic of interest in 2018? What markets in the GovCon space do you see growing/contracting? 

IT modernization and the language in the NDAA/MGT Act. Cloud migration and data/cybersecurity, especially with the new DFARS requirements, will be a key topics for GovCon providers in 2018.

What will 2018 hold for government contracting? More M&A activity, consolidation? IT budget cuts? How is today’s market affecting the way you develop and retain talent? 

I think 2018 will be a great year for companies providing innovative, next-gen information technology solutions. On the M&A front, 2018 could represent a sellers market as there are not an abundance of opportunity without small business risk.

I think we will see more “merger of equals” deals within the mid-tier and larger space due to the lack of traditional targets in the market right now. Developing and retaining talent must be “front and center” for any government contractor in today’s tight labor market. The competition for talent, especially cleared talent, in the GovCon space drives the need to conduct a holistic approach to employee engagement and fulfillment.

The long lead time for clearances is driving that constriction. (Start to finish on a top secret clearance can take up to two years). As a result, companies are having to innovate new ways of attracting new employees and find new ways to engage current employees to retain them.

What has been your business strategy across multiple presidential administrations and what is your organization’s plan for growth in 2018 and beyond? How has your company best overcome legacy infrastructure?

As a general rule, I believe that presidential administrations do not significantly change the business strategy in the GovCon market. Our customers need the solutions and services we provide to meet their mission requirements and that, typically, supersedes political climate.

That being said, in every administration over time, there are winners and losers and that could influence how we make strategic investments. As we look ahead to 2018, President Trump’s focus on national security, IT modernization and cloud migration are key growth drivers as we view the addressable market. We are committed to helping our clients move the future forward through execution of these modernization solutions.

What concerns you the most when looking ahead at the future of GovCon? What excites you the most?

The largest area for concern is access to cleared talent. I am most excited by the legislative and executive commitment to addressing aging IT infrastructure and really committing to modernization.

What future collaboration topics and projects should take will take place between the public, private and academic sectors? Have you seen improvement or disconnect the last 5 years?

Streamlining the acquisition process to allow for the adoption of commercial best practices/introduction of commercial off the shelf solutions would be a real enabler to the modernization our government’s aging infrastructure so desperately needs. It’s hard to modernize if the acquisition process isn’t agile enough to keep pace with changing technology. Our acquisition processes need to support the rapid pace with which that technology changes.

What do you see as the next big reform in acquisition policy? How do you predict the federal government will prepare itself for the 21st-century workforce?

The next big reform in acquisition policy may surround the reduction in administrative burden for the federal employee and the continued practices of industry self-scoring models. Rapid acquisition programs like GSA Express have developed proven methods to reduce procurement administrative lead time to source solutions quickly to the end user.

What would you say is most important tool or piece of advice to educating the next generation of defense/IC/IT/health care leaders? What challenges will the defense/IC/IT/health care face (culturally, institutionally, skills wise) as millennials come to inhabit the previously GenX-dominated workplace?

Have a well-defined but concise and digestible strategic plan that can be communicated to your team so that you can obtain their buy-in. It must be a plan that the entire team gets behind or it will ultimately fail, in my view. Once this is accomplished, establish a set of clearly defined, objective metrics to inform your success or failure with the execution of this plan and adjust accordingly.


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