If you’re in government contracting, you already know Dun & Bradstreet. The global provider of business decisioning data and analytics provides the Data Universal Numbering System, or better known as the DUNS Number, a unique nine-digit identifier used by the government for all businesses required to federally register for contracts or grants.
The company recently went public — a major step Chief Technology Officer of Government Services Erik Ekwurzel said could open new doors.
“It frees up capital to invest more in some of our strategic initiatives, particularly as we grow our business, bring on new data sets and develop tailored solutions for our government clients,” he said. “That’s really exciting for all of us.”
Historically, Dun & Bradstreet has helped safeguard the integrity of the request for proposal process, ensuring, for example, a single company didn’t submit bids under multiple operating names, either intentionally or by accident. Looking ahead, Ekwurzel said, the company has several initiatives in play to expand its federal footprint.
“We have the most comprehensive commercial Data Cloud in the world, which comprises information on more than 360 million global businesses, allowing us to deliver analytics and insights that no other company can,” Ekwurzel said. “The Data Cloud fuels all of our scores and indexes, and it’s what enables us to help our public and private sector clients better manage risk and identify new business opportunities.”
That critical data is currently used by federal agencies to better understand the inner workings of their supply chains.
“Dun & Bradstreet’s data is incredibly powerful for helping the U.S. Department of Defense better understand the vendors it works with across all tiers of its supply chain in order to mitigate risk, prevent fraud and improve operations — key priorities as we ensure the future of our national security,” Ekwurzel said.
To drive those deeper insights, the company made a series of strategic acquisitions to provide its clients with the best-in-industry data, analytical applications and technology.
For example, Dun & Bradstreet is investing heavily in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence with the acquisition of Lattice Networks.
“We’re taking the core AI technology from Lattice Networks and applying the methodologies and techniques to solve some of our clients’ most challenging problems,” Ekwurzel said.
The company also acquired Orb Intelligence as a way to drill down into digital signal data, a decision that helps cements Dun & Bradstreet’s strategy to link the digital and physical worlds, allowing it to combine firmographic data with a digital view of businesses’ presence, including web domains, URLs, IP addresses and social networks.
“By combining physical and digital signals together, we gain a holistic picture of the health of businesses and the interactions between and among businesses across their supply chains,” Ekwurzel said.
These deeper insights could be of value to the GovCon community in its efforts to meet ever-more-rigorous standards and requirements in federal purchasing.
Government is becoming increasingly more concerned about the security infrastructure of a company and how well it’s managing its internet security, Ekwurzel said.
“Dun & Bradstreet is helping the government — and government contractors — to understand who in their supply chain is being responsible, not only from a financial perspective, but also from a cybersecurity perspective,” he added.
For GovCons wondering how they can pass muster, Ekwurzel offers some advice.
“The best thing you can do is to be responsible with your internet security infrastructure, just like your financial health,” he said. “These things are not only going to impact how a government procurement officer is going to view you. Over time, they’re going to impact your ability to receive insurance, your financial credit worthiness.”
How to do cyber well? Follow the government’s lead. Earlier this year, DOD launched the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program. The purpose of it is to harden suppliers’ compliance around expected cybersecurity standards, practices and protocols to help avoid supply chain attacks that could significantly harm U.S. national security.
All suppliers at every level of the supply chain will be affected and will need to assess their own cybersecurity risk as well as those of their own sub-tier vendors. Dun & Bradstreet now sits at the center of this program to help DOD vet potential contractors, and also help potential contractors better understand how they can meet DOD’s new security standards.
In terms of Dun & Bradstreet’s evolving emphasis on supply chain, Ekwurzel said he sees a common theme among those GovCons who stand out most strongly in the eyes of potential federal partners.
“It’s about making sure that you’re doing things from a financially responsible perspective, being thoughtful about who you choose as your subcontractors and taking the time to better understand who they are and how they operate,” he said.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light that most companies and government agencies lack the visibility and transparency needed to manage their supply chains. For example, organizations in most industries only look at their tier 1 suppliers and often lack a detailed understanding of their sub-tier supply chains, including tier 2 and 3 suppliers (i.e. their suppliers’ suppliers).
Dun & Bradstreet helps clients look at supply chain data, analytics and insights to better evaluate and authenticate direct and sub-tier suppliers (based on geography, and a better understanding of their credit, financial and compliance standing), to understand corporate linkages and gain insight into suppliers’ risk profiles. And with detailed physical and digital data, clients can see, for the first time, the ripple effect the pandemic has had across their entire global network, down to the companies and specific regions in which they operate. This level of granularity can greatly change the way agencies procure goods and manage relationships with outside suppliers.
In addition to helping commercial clients, the firm released a complimentary website, COVID-19.dnb.com, to provide agencies with epidemiological data, cross-referenced to show its impact on specific companies.
“They can look up a business in almost any country and see if it’s an upstanding business before they order $10 million worth of masks or respirators,” Ekwurzel said. “We’ve made business data and analytics available to help governments more effectively and efficiently adjudicate which businesses they should buy from.”
On a personal level, Ekwurzel said he finds it gratifying to support the government mission — whether that’s vetting the foreign companies that load cargo onto U.S. planes, or supporting the Food and Drug Administration in ensuring a safe supply chain for food and pharmaceuticals.
“Helping the government to protect the common good is what drives me,” he said. “That’s what makes it personally meaningful.”