Editor’s Note: Chris Bjornson of Accenture Federal Services is the winner of the Chief Officer Awards Public Company CIO Award announced June 17 .
On June 17, WashingtonExec will be virtually celebrating the most impactful and innovative C-suite executives in government and industry. These chief officers work in technology, security, data, operations, finance, business and more, excelling on both sides of the government contracting sector. Our team of judges have chosen the finalists for the inaugural Chief Officer Awards, so before we announce the winners during the event, we wanted to get to know the finalists a bit better. This Q&A series highlights their careers, successes, proud professional moments and notable risks.
Chris Bjornson is the chief information officer at Accenture Federal Services and a finalist in the Public Company CIO Award category.
What key achievements did you have in 2019?
We worked closely with internal Accenture Federal Services teams to implement several strategic solutions that accelerated growth, improved operations and had a positive impact on our community, including:
- Created a “single pane of glass” resource staffing solution to bridge previously siloed processes across finance, HR and IT security, which improved revenue while saving $3 million in annual costs.
- Automated over 4,000 hours of manual work across finance, HR and IT, saving over $200,000 per year with our first 13 “bots” using robotic process automation
- Deployed Microsoft Teams to support 10,000 active daily users collaborating with video, audio on a daily basis.
- Expanded our 5-year relationship with FiRST Robotics in the greater metro D.C. area to a second regional location in San Antonio, Texas.
- Partnered with Year Up to place interns in areas of marketing and finance, which was an extension of our current engagement with information security and in my IT organization.
What has made you successful in your current role?
The power of “three”: Keeping expectations, communications and priorities to three things at any given time. This allows me, my teams and my peers to stay on track and focus.
“80/20”: Most benefits will never be achieved if you allow for analysis paralysis. And the work is very complex. Keeping things simple and focused on what matters most and what will achieve the primary benefit is key. Everything gets more complicated over time. This mentality is much easier said than done, which is why I make it a point to inspect and test for the complexity of a solution from requirements through to operational maturity.
Be human: It’s not just business. Behind every company door are thoughts and feelings of employees who have families and personal interests. Taking time to get to know people creates trust and improves relationships which drives successful outcomes.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
In just nine months, my team developed a new IT blueprint and led a greenfield startup of a billion-dollar business, delivering mission critical work for federal clients that enabled a full, secure collaboration across the company. The greatest test of this accomplishment was seamlessly providing our employees with a new email, VOIP and collaboration system over a single weekend, and ensuring productivity and continuity of client delivery across 100 ongoing projects and 4,500 employees working for the federal government. It was quickly followed by another overnight system that let employees charge time and receive payroll in our first fiscal year. It was the proverbial “flying the plane (at record speed) while building it” situation.
What are your primary focuses areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
Innovative people: We want to put the power of technology into the hands of our people, using platforms like Power Tools, ServiceNow, RPA and training for non-IT resources. People drive business. Giving them the proper tools is the opportunity for IT. With the right guard rails, these technologies can be more broadly explored and allow people to find new ways to innovate.
Intelligent everything: AI, as in artificial intelligence + analytics + automation. There are many examples across industry where various building blocks of AI can help humanity achieve more than they otherwise could do alone. In AFS, we’ve applied machine learning, to help increase the quality and efficiency of matching skilled resources to work supporting the federal government. Continuing to identify ways to leverage these technologies will allow people to bring their very best and innovate for the future.
Agile everything: It’s not about delivering “faster;” it is about realizing value more quickly. It is not effective to manage a list of requirements that are obsolete after six months of reviews and before a new system is deployed. Expediting the focus on value engages the vested stakeholders in deciding on the most valuable product outcomes, one sprint at time. Ultimately, this reduces complexity and accelerates outcomes that are closer to “need to have” versus a cacophony of “nice to haves.”
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
We’ve embraced NASCAR’s “one-team” approach, where attention to every impactful detail is celebrated. The impact of one missing lug nut can mean the difference in 60 feet of braking distance, literally determining victory or defeat.
With this mindset, we instituted an incentive and recognition program for the entire organization to look for little things that can have an impact. It’s our Lug Nut Award program, and we give real NASCAR lug nuts to each recipient. This award is given quarterly to five to 10 individuals with the associated story shared with the organization. Recipients are nominated by their peers and reviewed by leadership for highest relevance and impact to our business. In one of many recent examples, we had an individual notice a process deficiency gap that led to a 92% improvement in purchase order matching.
Success starts in high school, which is why I lead our company’s annual involvement with FiRST Robotics. Our volunteers have mentored students, judged competitions and contributed as a title sponsor for the past five years. FiRST promotes STEAM across strategy, financial planning, design, delivery, marketing and safety programs. The students who participate in FiRST bring value to industry even before they head out to college.
Creating opportunities in even the smallest of ways is why I am so passionate about our engagement with programs like Year Up. Year Up provides training and certifications to disadvantaged young adults by partnering with companies like AFS to provide opportunities to help launch careers and bridge the opportunity divide. We recently expanded this partnership with Year Up to place individuals in marketing and finance in addition to our continued successful placements in information security and IT.
These organizations provide opportunities to others who might not otherwise have had it or understand the value in it. Our future is in this next generation of leaders.