Innovation at Booz Allen Hamilton

Mike Isman, Booz Allen Hamilton

Mike Isman
Vice President
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Mike Isman has over 25 years of experience in the public sector markets and financial services industry. He is currently a Vice President in Booz Allen’s Strategic Innovation Group driving Edge Technologies and Innovative Solutions. In this role, he is responsible for next generation technology, innovative solutions and strategic partnerships to drive the firm forward. He previously led Booz Allen’s Strategic Consulting and Analytics cross-cutting business for DHS, DOJ and DOT (including a CIO Agenda, Strategic Service Delivery (including shared services, business model design, etc.) and a Digital and Analytics platform.

Prior to his time at Booz Allen, Mike was a senior manager at American Management Systems (AMS), where he co-led the startup of AMS’ Wealth Management Practice and managed the Mid-Atlantic/Southeast region of AMS’ Retirement and Insurance practice, which covered four regional offices. Prior to AMS, Mike worked in the Retirement/401K/Trust Management business for both Bankers Trust and Kwasha Lipton.

Video Transcript:

I am going to be introducing Mike Isman, who is going to talk a little bit about our partnership. Mike hails from D.C. He has over 25 years of experience in the public sector markets and financial services industry. He's currently a Vice President Booz Allen Strategic Innovation Group, driving edge technologies and innovation solutions. Wow, that's a big group. In this role, he is responsible for next generation technology, innovative solutions, and strategic partnerships to drive the firm forward. Prior to this, Mike led Booz Allen Strategic Consulting and Analytics business working with groups in the government like DHS, DOJ, and the Department of Transportation. So a big hand of welcome for Mike Isman. Thank you.

So good afternoon. I thought it was a pretty amazing morning. Do you guys agree?


I mean a lot of great stuff. You know it's funny I was thinking about how to start the conversation the other day, and I didn't think I would start it this way, but I'm going to anyway. So I was listening to Lale and her discussion about their journey around in a culture of innovation, and we went through the same thing at Booz Allen. You know we're 104 year old firm, and we like to think of ourselves as 104 year old startup. We have gone through some of the same activities that she did. When I listen to [Kayvon 00:01:24] talk about the unbelievable mission that he's supporting, I think about the missions of our clients and how we support them, and it really struck home. Then when I listen to Jim talk about the things that are going on his organization, it all sort of came together in the same story that we're all going to be telling. It kind of feels a little bit like innovation group therapy where you actually, we all think through and I heard all the questions about how'd you make that happen, how'd you do that. We all struggle with some of the same things.

So I'll get into a little bit. The first thing that I want to say is when we were thinking about launching our strategic innovation group, which is about four years ago, one of the things that we really, really struggled with is what tenets should we set for innovation. You know we're a hundred years in. We had ways of doing things. Some of them were old, some of them we felt like new, some of them we felt like were innovative, but in reality you know we needed to really change exactly how we were doing business. It wasn't a want, it was a necessity. We had to do it. One of those tenets which I'll talk about now is don't go it alone. We spent 100 years thinking Booz Allen could handle any challenge that our clients could give to us, but we realized that in the new age you really can't do that. You've got to partner.

Spigit. We're proud to be a sponsor of this event. We're proud to be a partner of Spigit. Spigit's one of those partners that we actually met through that process of really rethinking how we were going to do business. You know when we looked at Crowd as an offering, or a service, or a capability that our clients could see, we actually did what any good consultant would. We looked at 100 to 150 different companies that we could have partnered with. It got really unwieldy really fast. We narrowed that down to a handful that we work with today. Spigit is one of those, Top Coder, who you see here today is another. These are the leaders in this industry for a reason. They recognize the market, they recognize where it's going, and they understand how to make things happen.

So when we went to talk with Spigit originally, we were just saying hey why don't we partner with clients, and we're doing that. Right we're partnering the federal space in a meaningful way. We're partnering in the commercial space as well, but we may go with another vendor internally. It was an interesting and very vivacious conversation that we had with Ken Scott when we talked that through. They convinced us that you know that that wasn't the right answer, but they also showed us what their roadmap was and where things were headed. So we implemented in last Fall, and went live in November our internal garage, I think one was called the kitchen. Ours is called the garage. Our internal garage, where we do our ideation, and we do our crowd challenges. We actually drove three fold increases in the use of our garage by implementing Spigit because it's usable, it's capable, and it actually drives challenges in a more meaningful way.

So that means we've done almost 1,000, we've had almost 1,000 ideas generated since November. I mean that's a lot of ideas coming out of that system. We have over 60% of our staff actually working on Spigit today, and people actually use it as a meaningful method for moving forward. So looking at how we think about those things, it's great that we're using it internally, it's great that we have this great relationship with Spigit, but if our clients aren't demanding it, then it's somewhat useless for us right. We need our clients to have an uptick in these types of services, and we've actually seen that. Whether attackathons that are on big missions of the federal government, or it's crowd challenges on small things that actually will make a difference in organizations, our clients are picking this up in the federal space as well as in the commercial space. Which they appreciate now a new way of thinking about their business, and they actually appreciate a new idea of getting to the answer quicker, but with just as much quality. Crowd gets you through a lot of those early hurdles in a meaningful way to get to that point.

The other thing we've noticed is that, and someone brought this up earlier, but the integration of platforms. So it's not only Spigit right, when we work with Spigit and Top Coder together, we get very different value out of the different platforms that are in place. So Spigit provides the great ideation about new ideas. Top Coder allows us to take that, maybe in a weekend, from an idea to a prototype, or a minimum viable product. That shortens the cycle so tremendously for us to be able to actually do the great work that we do coming in at that point.

The value proposition to us on all of that is three fold. One is we get to, we get a better way to actually enhance and advance our client's missions because we work in some of the most important missions in the federal government. Second thing is we get a better intimacy of the employees of these organizations and how the work, which is a really important understanding and a really important differentiator for us in the marketplace. It actually makes us better for our clients. The third is once you have those prototypes, or MVPs, or capabilities, there's got to be a way now to implement that and take it to fruition because one of the biggest challenges we face is you have these great ideas and you don't know what to do with them. We heard a lot about that this morning. So it gives us an opportunity to do that in a very meaningful way.

So as we've been thinking through how to mature now for our services, one of the things we've implemented is something we call solutions studio. The concept here is we need to be better at accelerating the solutions we're developing to market for our clients. Not for us, for our clients. It's really important that they see the great activity. We also need a way to integrate capabilities that we're developing both across our firm, and that we're working with whether it's startups that we're working with or large scale technology firms. Things that are, solutions that are out there that our clients haven't really seen yet. It's really important that we get those things to market in a meaningful way. The best way to do that is to look at real client challenges, and then apply the technology in a meaningful way to what we're calling show not just tell the capabilities there.

Crowdsourcing is a huge, huge component of that. Being able to get to a point of getting those ideas, and building out those ideas, and being able to show clients what's possible for them as they move forward is a really important component of that. We're seeing tremendous value in that new way of thinking around the consultant industry. Again, it's one of those necessities that we have to move forward. We can't continue to do it the way we've done it in the past.

So when we think about how we deliver against those, one of the big things we do to deliver against those is through our innovation hubs. We have an innovation center that we've built in our D.C. offices, which is where most of our clients are. Spigit is a contributing sponsor of that innovation center. Then we looked and said where else do we want to be. So we're all across the country, but if you look at some of these, I mean we're in the capital factory in Austin. We're in galvanized right here in downtown San Francisco and Seattle. We're in the Cambridge Innovation Center in Boston. We're working within the ecosystem of the startup community. We're part of the innovation community, not an outsider trying to look in. That's had huge ramifications and powerful implications for how our business is moving forward.

So I'm going to finish on a quick case study of something that we developed. You can see a flyer of it back at our table in the back. It's called bead awake. This was one of the first things that we looked at and said how can we take something from an idea to actually an implementation. So bead awake was thought of by two of our college interns. So 19, 20 year olds that are looking at things and saying I see a problem. The problem was how many automobile accidents are caused by people falling asleep at the wheel, and how can we do a better job of giving people the opportunity to protect themselves. Most of the technologies that do that are actually based on movement of body. So when your head starts to nod it might trigger you, but that's too late. So they looked at how heartbeats change when you go to sleep, and what's the pattern. They built algorithms around it. They worked around the clock actually do that, and they built this idea.

Then they said, how are we going to actually implement it. So they moved to the crowd, and they've run several challenges. They've run challenges around the user interface. They ran challenges around the technology itself. They partnered with a very famous fitness tracker organization, which you might have heard of, they've worked around, and they did this all part-time while they were at school. Now we've got a viable, a minimum viable prototype and product that we're actually working with clients, not only in the auto industry, but also in utilities and energy and dangerous places where falling asleep would be disastrous. So it's been a great story about leveraging what we've been talking about in a meaningful way. That's what our solutions studio is meant to do.

Last thing is the best part about this is that we're just starting the journey. Right, we're at the beginning of this. Right, we're really not far into it even though it feels like to some of us like we've been doing this for a long time. We're just scratching the surface, and we're really excited to continue that. Thank you very much. Appreciate your time.

That was terrific. Now you'll be around for the rest of the day. You've got your folks at the back of the room in the booth.

Yup. We're in the back and happy to take questions.

So any questions you guys will take later on?


Like who won the FA Cup Final in 1972?

Yes, that's a very good question.

Right, okay.

Thank you guys.

All right. Excellent.