Founded in 2003, CollabraLink for years supported clients in the commercial realm before shifting its focus to driving enterprisewide, mission critical digital transformation in the federal sector.
As a result, the company brings a highly entrepreneurial mindset to the GovCon arena
“We had to learn really quickly to be nimble in how we adapt to emerging technologies. If you don’t do that when you serve commercial clients, you basically get eaten up by the competition,” CEO Rahul Pandhi said.
Today, that same agile spirit drives the firm in its service of an expanding federal client base.
“We bring more of a commercial flavor to our engagements here in federal,” Pandhi said. “For example, we do internal hackathons: We form teams and perform a weekend sprint or a 1-week sprint to build a new product, based off of a government use case that we’ve encountered.”
These forward-looking projects typically incorporate some element of emerging technology, such as artificial intelligence or machine learning. The outcomes of these efforts then become part of CollabraLink’s government offerings.
“It’s a real-world example of our ability to embrace and utilize some of these emerging technologies to solve real government problems,” Pandhi said.
In addition to bringing new ideas to the federal market, the hackathon approach also helps to keep the CollabraLink team on the cutting edge.
“It allows technologists to showcase their skills, and also it allows them to get exposure to new and different areas, different ways of thinking about the problems that our government customers face,” Pandhi said.
Many of those customers face overlapping problems.
As a GovCon executive focused on digital transformation, Pandhi sees many of his clients struggle with tasks around correspondence tracking, cyber risk management, or case management. He seeks out a competitive edge by developing solutions to these common problems that can be deployed across multiple federal user groups.
“There are repeatable processes, for example around things like security clearance processing, or achieving authority to operate for new applications,” he said. “We can help to solve those shared challenges with tools that are repeatable and re-leverageable. We can help to address those at one agency and then showcase those solutions at other agencies.”
This approach helps CollabraLink to operate efficiently, and it’s a net win for the taxpayer as well.
“At the end of the day, we’re all taxpayers,” Pandhi said. “We want government to be more efficient. We want it to be more secure. We want it to be more productive.”
How to make government more efficient and more productive? That’s the question Pandhi asks himself every day. As CEO, his task is to always be steering the firm toward solutions that will best serve the federal mission.
But how to know whether you’re placing the right bets?
For Pandhi, the answer lies at the intersection of efficiency on the one hand, and intelligence on the other.
“We are entering a ‘cognitive era,’ where applications have to drive a more efficient working environment for the government, specifically by performing functions in a cognitive fashion,” he said.
With tools like AI and machine learning, agencies can leverage data to drive better decision-making.
“I look for the places where technology can help them to build better policy,” he said. “That’s the sweet spot. That’s where we want to be placing our bets as a company.”
To find that sweet spot, Pandhi has put in pace an organizational structure that supports a forward-looking view. A digital services practice group, for example, is charged with watching the horizon and understanding what’s coming down the line.
“You have to have deliberate sort of structure and infrastructure around this,” he said. “You have to have a systematic approach to gathering the data points.”
Even as Pandhi keeps an eye on the technology landscape, he also is focused on ensuring he has the right people on board to support emerging implementations. The best way to meet that mark, he said, is to focus on the culture of the company.
“As an executive team, we are having deliberate conversations all the time on culture, on the direction that we want to go,” Pandhi said. “We’re constantly asking people for their feedback, and then acting on that.”
When all the pieces fall into place — when the people are on board, and the technology is in place to help make government both smarter and more efficient in its operations — Pandhi goes home happy.
“For me, it is all about the human impact,” he said.
Pandhi has been involved with IT for a long time, and the notion of implementing systems that helped somebody to sell more widgets wasn’t fulfilling to him.
“Building a modern digital government has real human impact,” he said. “It will improve the lives of citizens across this country. I am passionate about that and my team gets really, really charged up by that.”