In a fast-changing technology environment, America’s largest military shipbuilding company is looking to keep its customers ahead of the curve.
“In the 30 years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen such a highly complex, rapidly-evolving environment,” said Chris Bishop, chief growth officer at HII’s Mission Technologies division, which also provides integrated solutions to partners in government and industry.
“Our customers are trying to figure out how to maintain their strategic decisive advantage, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to do that, given the near-peer threats. They’re engaging in a generational investment, especially in the modernization of command and control,” he said.
The military is challenged to find creative and innovative ways to rapidly pursue new and emerging technologies, and to integrate them into mission operations. HII is looking to help.
Bishop joined HII a little over a year ago, as part of the acquisition of Alion Science and Technology. In his role as chief growth officer, he said, he’s looking to leverage HII’s more than 100-year track record of building “the largest, most survivable platforms on Earth.”
With that as the foundation, “our entire business is focused on driving the development, maturation, adoption and integration of new technologies into mission operations,” Bishop said.
“What really makes us different is that we truly operate as an integrated whole: We cross-pollinate the kind of skills and expertise from the legacy shipbuilding side of the business over to Mission Technologies and vice versa, to offer a much broader set of national security-related solutions to our customers.”
HII also seeks to differentiate itself in the speed and agility it brings to the table.
“We’re committed to ensuring that we keep pace with the customers’ needs, because that’s the only way we’re going to maintain competitive advantage in the marketplace,” Bishop added. “And it’s the only way our customers are going to maintain their strategic advantage.”
Innovation Drives Growth
Bishop said he looks to innovation as the key driver of HII’s continued growth.
“Our strategy has been focused on technological advancement, research, science and technology engineering,” he said.
Within that broad spectrum of opportunity, he points to a number of key areas of focus.
“We are leveraging our position in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the human-machine interfaces,” he said.
HII also is focusing on the development of unmanned and autonomous systems.
“The evolving war fight is going to rely very heavily on that C5ISR being embedded in edge processing, with automation supporting all those components,” Bishop said.
Overall, Bishop and the division’s leadership team are looking at ways in which HII can deliver value in the emerging digital battlefield.
“We’re focused on large-scale data processing at the edge: distilling the data, making sense of it and informing combatant commanders,” he said. “We’re also working in the integrated cross-domain arena, the networked ‘system of systems’ that’s implied in live, virtual and constructive training.”
HII already supports this in the Navy’s synthetic training environment, and is looking to expand that effort across the Defense Department.
“This is extraordinarily important when it comes to the ensuring operational readiness in the new, cross-domain war fight,” Bishop said.
The company’s business strategy is constructed around bringing these leading-edge capabilities to market, as it aims to help each of the services rapidly connect to systems and data, and improve operational efficiencies.
Role of the CGO
Bishop said he’s seen the role of the chief growth officer change in recent years across the GovCon community. While different CGOs now define their roles in different ways, he said much of his focus is on building the internal growth team’s capacity, while partnering with business leaders.
“My role is to make sure that we build the strategic growth infrastructure to ensure long-term results, not just a set of near-term targets,” he said. “I tend to focus less on the one-off opportunities and more on tactical aspects of the job, building that long-term ability to address those customers’ needs.”
This starts with organizational alignment.
“It’s about understanding our customer’s ‘true, hard problems,’ making sure that we identify and propose the right talent with the right skills to help them meet the challenges they face,” he said.
Bishop is also spearheading the division’s growth vision and collaborating with the teams to put systems in place to accelerate solutions delivery.
“I prioritize our internal bid processes, our tools, our infrastructure, to be able to operate at the needed speed and scale,” he said. “A big part of what we’re focused on right now is integrating those capabilities across a very large, industrial-strength company.”
In a complex business environment, his biggest challenge is in prioritizing the opportunities. To get it right, he looks to see where government is spending.
“If you look at the 2022 and 2023 budgets, the insights clearly show the focus around modernization, R&D, technology innovation,” he said. “We’ve got to stay focused on those target capabilities and markets.”
As a more than 30-year veteran of the GovCon space, Bishop said he draws personal satisfaction from the nature of the national security mission.
“One of the biggest things that really drives me is that we are absolutely making a difference,” he said. “You can see it almost every day in what we do — not just giving our military a competitive and decisive advantage over adversaries, but really, ultimately saving lives.”