A veteran of the GovCon space, Greg Gershman set out to create a different kind of company when he and co-founder Paul Smith established the digital services agency Ad Hoc.
In Gershman’s experience, contractors in general are good at… contracting. They have expertise in how to navigate complex federal procurement cycles and how to land the business. As CEO at Ad Hoc, Gershman said he’s looking to shift the emphasis.
“We really want our focus to be on the technology itself, delivering the kinds of technical talent that the government needs to address its service-delivery challenges,” he said.
Government agencies recognize the need to evolve, but they face myriad hurdles. The complexity of procurement processes makes it hard to keep up with emerging technologies. At the same time, government needs massively scalable solutions, and it also has to meet ever-growing expectations among citizens and end users who see in their private lives the powerful potential for technology to improve service delivery.
Ad Hoc came into being to help set right the unsuccessful first efforts around the Healthcare.gov portal.
“We saw an acute need for experienced technical people,” Gershman said. “Our philosophy was to build a different kind of talent pool, to bring a different kind of culture into the government space.”
With that in mind, “we’ve tried to create an environment that really values technical talent,” he said. “We help them grow and mature in their careers. We provide support internally.”
Ad Hoc is a remote-first company, encouraging people to work from home. Gershman also strives to engage his employees in work they will find meaningful and challenging.
“That gives them a sense of fulfillment: they can really see the impact of the work that they’re doing,” he said.
The firm has built out practice areas around specific disciplines such as engineering, design, product management and data analytics. These help to set the bar for performance.
“They are always asking, what does good look like?” Gerhsman said. “And they offer a lot of support to our team members. There’s always someone within the organization that they can get advice from and learn from.”
This approach has helped Ad Hoc to score a number of impressive wins. In addition to helping the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rebuild Healthcare.gov, “we’ve rebuilt parts of Medicare.gov to make them faster, easier to use. We’ve also done a lot of work with the Department of Veterans Affairs, reimagining their entire digital presence in terms of how they interact with veteran veterans online and provide them with services,” Gerhsman said.
The firm has leveraged its experiences to elevate the GovCon sector in general, publishing field guides for internal and external use in an effort to document best practices and set expectations.
“As an organization, we are really deeply interested in the problems in government, and how they can be best solved,” Gershman said.
Looking ahead, he sees opportunity to continue the company’s growth across a range of federal civilian agencies, including the Office of Personnel Management, the Social Security Administration, the Library of Congress and the Agriculture Department, among others.
“We are always looking at how we can get involved with any of these high-impact services that people use, to make them as easy and as streamlined as possible,” he said.
There are many GovCons working in that same arena, of course. To stake his claim, Gershman said he is always looking ahead to see what emerging capabilities might be brought to bear.
“The delivery of digital services has really evolved a lot over the last 10 to 15 years,” he said. “We are always looking for places where we can bring that in and help agencies not just to deliver, but to evolve and grow, to do new things and expand their capabilities.”
In the big picture, the aim is “to help them embrace newer ways of doing things,” he said. Under pressure from President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience, and faced with rising citizen expectations, “it’s time to really shake up how government agencies are organized internally, and the ways in which they manage the delivery of services,” he said.
This messaging had proven so effective, Gershman said his biggest challenge today is in managing the company’s rapid growth.
“I spend a lot of time thinking about: Where are we going? What are the things that we want to do for government, and how can we prepare ourselves best for that?” he said.
To find the right answers, Gershman is focused on hiring smart people.
“I think a lot about the team, making sure we have the right people in the right spots, and that they are organized around things that are needed for us to grow and expand and scale as a company,” he said.
On a personal level, he said, it’s satisfying when all those pieces fall into place.
“We have had over 600 people at Ad Hoc bringing their skills and their experience to help government provide services for people,” he said. “And we have brought in lots of people who otherwise might not have thought of government as a place where they could apply their technical skills. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of.”