Managed services News
Accenture Federal Exec Talks Synergies, GenAI Strength From Two-Year-Old Novetta Acquisition
Joseph F. Kovar
‘We have always taken a data-centric approach, and AI is really a next generation of that. And then GenAI is in the next generation after that. So it’s pretty much considered in everything we do. About six months ago, [Accenture CEO] Julie Sweet talked about a $3 billion investment in AI. I think that is definitely a push from an overall Accenture perspective. And Accenture Federal is doing the same with a heavy push in machine learning and AI,’ says Kevin Heald, managing director and portfolio lead of Accenture Federal Services’ national security portfolio.
In the two years since Accenture Federal Services acquired federal government-focused service provider Novetta, the two have become stronger together.
While Accenture Federal Services has significantly grown its business with government agencies including the U.S. Department of Defense thanks to doors Novetta has opened for it, Novetta has been able to take advantage of its new parent company to cast a wider net for opportunities, said Kevin Heald, managing director and portfolio lead of Accenture Federal Services’ national security portfolio.
Prior to its acquisition by Accenture Federal Services, Novetta was a technology-enabled services firm focused primarily on government work, said Heald, who at the time of the acquisition in mid-2021 was senior vice president of Novetta’s information exploitation division.
Novetta, which under multiple private equity companies grew over time via the merger of 10 different companies before it was acquired by Accenture Federal Services, was primarily focused on national security work, said Heald.
“Think DoD, law enforcement, intelligent community, etc.,” he said. “But mostly technology work. So think big data, cyber, cloud, infrastructure, to tactical work. That’s really where we made our money. We had a set of products we sold as part of our offering, for example, our C4SIR [command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] product, cyber product and a couple other things,”
As part of Accenture Federal Services, there are bigger and better things that Novetta can pursue that it couldn’t previously, Heald said.
“We’re just a bigger firm,” he said. “We can go after work that we couldn’t have gone after before. And so we’re now combining the best of what Accenture can offer and what they have done, and bringing that to bear with what we can do as Novetta. So it really has been a nice synergy to go after a whole bunch of new work.”
Novetta has also had an impact on the much larger parent company since it was acquired, Heald said. In particular, Novetta gives Accenture Federal Services a new perspective for mission-focused customers in the government and military, he said.
“We did a bunch of work for mission customers with more of a worldwide presence,” he said. “We have some work for the Special Forces community with some places in the highly cleared workforce. Accenture had some, but we brought more of that. And I think we bring a very tech-focused culture. That really helped hone that tech culture for our missions. But I think it really ends up being a lot of the customers we brought were ones that we had but where Accenture really didn’t have the same gravity in.”
Novetta also has impacted some of Accenture’s business outside the federal space, although that help has been more limited, Heald said.
“There’s big Accenture, and we’re Accenture Federal,” he said. “So we’re actually a separate organization and company from Accenture LLP. There is a proxy agreement with rules about what we can help LLP with and what they can help us with. So it is less about us helping wider Accenture, the worldwide company, and more of helping the federal side of the business.”
For instance, Novetta brought a cloud FinOps technology called CloudTracker that was developed in conjunction with the government to monitor cloud workloads to help the government manage cloud spend, Heald said.
“Cloud was marketed as a panacea for all ills at some point,” he said. “It is an amazing technology, but you still have to have cost control. You still have to know what you’re spending on. We [also] brought in some of our own machine learning techniques that we’ve adapted for other customers. So a lot of the technical accelerators, as we would call them, are now available to our other customers inside of the federal space.”
For Novetta’s original client base, Accenture brings a strong strategy consulting practice as well as workloads around such areas as enterprise resource planning, human resources management or SAP that it would normally not have done in the past, Heald said.
“So now we’re actually fusing a lot of our mission-based technology with a lot of more of Accenture’s back-office modernization to do things like ERP modernization from both angles,” he said. “And quite frankly, we didn’t do a lot of civilian work. Accenture Federal does a lot of civilian work. So we’re learning some of the things that happen in the civilian world and adapting that for our customers as well.”
On the technology side, AI is already pretty much a part of everything Accenture Federal Services and Novetta do, depending on customer requirements, Heald said.
“We have always taken a data-centric approach, and AI is really a next generation of that,” he said. “And then GenAI is in the next generation after that. So it’s pretty much considered in everything we do. About six months ago, [Accenture CEO] Julie Sweet talked about a $3 billion investment in AI. I think that is definitely a push from an overall Accenture perspective. And Accenture Federal is doing the same with a heavy push in machine learning and AI.”
Novetta brought Accenture Federal Services 20-plus years of machine learning experience before it was known by that term, Heald said. Accenture has also invested heavily, with its AI Center of Excellence that matched Novetta’s Machine Learning Center of Excellence, he said.
“Combined, it’s truly a ‘one plus one equals three’ situation,” he said. “AI and ML still relies very heavily on data and smart infrastructure, and so we need to continue to have that. I think what we’re looking at now is how do we convert or look at ‘prompt’ engineers. We have an initiative where we’re training our workforce on how GenAI can help our customers properly prompt their models so they can get what they need.”
Looking ahead, Accenture Federal Services and Novetta will be looking at how to apply generative AI to everything from analyst work to data analytics to cybersecurity, Heald said. The company will also continue to focus on helping the federal government more efficiently use the cloud, he said.
“We will also focus on JADC2 [Joint All-Domain Command and Control],” he said. “JADC2 is really truly network-enabled warfare. We have several sets of tools that can help enable that for our customers. And that is something we’ll definitely be focusing on this year and beyond.”
After the acquisition of Novetta by Accenture Federal Services, they found each other to be culturally similar, Heald said.
“Integrating the two different cultures has been pretty successful so far,” he said. “Accenture was very willing to let us be what Novetta was, and almost bring ourselves into Accenture without being converted into Accenture. So we’ve kept a little bit of the Novetta culture here, and kind of adopted into Accenture.”