A Conversation with 2018 GovCon Award Finalist John Goodman

John Goodman, Accenture Federal Services

John Goodman, chief executive of Accenture Federal Services, is among the finalists for the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Professional Services Council annual Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards, in the Executive of the Year category for companies greater than $300 million. The winners will be announced at an awards program Nov. 5.

WashingtonExec spoke with Goodman about changes in the GovCon industry, advice for those just starting out, and reflections on his own career so far.

WashingtonExec: How did you find yourself on the path to federal consulting? Was there a turning point or inflection point in your career?

Goodman: I began my career on the faculty of Harvard Business School. When an opportunity came along to join the staff of the White House’s newly formed National Economic Council, I took a leave of absence and moved to Washington. That move later led me to the Pentagon, where I was able to help the Department of Defense rethink its business operations after the end of the Cold War. We worked on issues like the consolidation in the defense industry, base closures, and military housing privatization.  

The work at the DOD was extraordinarily fulfilling. The experience of bringing together the public and private sectors to make a real impact for our servicemembers and their families was life-changing and incredibly motivating. I came to Washington excited to influence policy and learned that policy success ultimately depends on execution. After my experience in DOD, I decided to change careers and work for a company where I could continue to make a difference. I was fortunate to be offered a position at Accenture, where I have been thrilled to work for the past 20 years.   

WashingtonExec: You’re coming up on your first year as chief executive at Accenture Federal Services. Is there anything that jumped out for you more than anything else this year?

Goodman: It’s been a great first year. I’m so proud of the extraordinary things that our people do every day with our clients. We’ve always been client-focused, but this past year we’ve really leaned into infusing a human-centric mindset into all the ways we work, and it permeates everything we do.

A great example is our Digital Studio. Two years ago, we opened our Digital Studio to bring human-centric design and innovation to our clients. We design with people at the heart of our solutions, an approach that fundamentally changes how we work and connect with our clients. We start by engaging together to understand the needs of our client’s workforce or the citizens they serve, and then co-create innovative solutions that solve those needs.  

The response from our clients has been incredible. In fact, the studio has tripled in size since we opened. Our clients really appreciate the collaboration and creativity around tackling their most complex challenges, and they see results and greater value faster for the time they invest up front at the studio.  

WashingtonExec: Looking ahead, how will AFS continue to grow in the federal market, and where do you see opportunity in the next year?

Goodman: We’ve continued to grow because we’re constantly innovating and we’re not afraid to change. We’re seeing more demand for innovation and a greater desire to acquire outcomes — that’s where we thrive as a company.

The fastest-growing area of our business is in the application of new technologies: interactive, analytics, artificial intelligence, cloud, digital platforms and cyber. When you consider the growing gap between citizen expectations and the resources it takes to meet them, agencies know they need to do things differently to deliver their mission and support their workforce. That’s why we’re investing in new technologies and new approaches that are intelligent, automated and proven in the private sector.  Our clients can buy the services they want that are flexible, scalable and on-demand.

Take our Accenture Insight Platform, for example. This platform was already working for our commercial clients, and we were able to configure it for the unique federal environment and achieve a FedRAMP certification. It offers agencies access to pre-built solution frameworks, accelerators and commercial and open source technologies so they can run analytics-driven solutions quickly and at a lower cost.  The platform eliminates the need for large up-front investments, and clients pay for what they use and can scale up or down over time.  

WashingtonExec: There’s always a lot of change in the federal market. What are you seeing from your perspective?

Goodman: We see tremendous potential with artificial intelligence. There are already early success stories for commercial and federal clients in areas like case management, customer service, human capital management, fraud and risk management, and inspections and maintenance. This isn’t a future play — it’s clear that AI can make an immediate impact on both customer service and mission delivery.  

There’s also a lot of hype in the market right now around AI. What we’re focused on is how to help clients get it right from the start. This is where human-centric design and agile approaches are so important, so clients can make the most of their data and technology for each role. The tech sector has been out in front with the first wave of AI adoption. We’ve been able to tap into those leading practices and align design, people, processes and systems to help our clients capitalize on AI at their agency now.  

WashingtonExec: What advice do you give to new hires who are just starting out in their careers?   

Goodman: First, always be learning. Technologies are changing so quickly that continuous learning is critical to remaining relevant to our clients. Second, take advantage of the opportunity to work with people who bring different skills, backgrounds and points of view. We fundamentally believe that diversity fuels our culture and our ability to innovate. Third, collaborate. When I joined Accenture, my mentor told me that the key to success is to always ask for help when you need it, and always provide help when asked for it. In my 20 years at Accenture, I’ve found that these three characteristics define who we are and help us to do great things with our clients.  

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