Meet the new GDIT

GDIT president Amy Gilliland talks about the company's new consulting practice and its work alongside the technology business.

GDIT president Amy Gilliland talks about the company's new consulting practice and its work alongside the technology business. GDIT

GDIT President Amy Gilliland discussed how the large systems integrator is responding to market shifts in a conversation with Nextgov/FCW.

In the past several months, GDIT has pursued a new strategy that looks to leverage its position as a top-tier tech provider and systems integrator to provide digital consulting to a wide swathe of government customers. 

“This is not your father’s GDIT,” the company’s president Amy Gilliland tells me, kicking off our conversation with equal parts passion and positivity.

Gilliland has held that position for six years, during which she oversaw the 2018 acquisition of CSRA that effectively doubled her organization’s size and scale; led a strategic divestiture of non-core business, like call centers, and reinvestment in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, cloud, cybersecurity and other core businesses; and presided over a leading government contractor during a once-in-a-generation pandemic. 

GDIT is a well-known partner to countless federal agencies and commercial companies, ranking at no. 5 on Washington Technology’s Top 100 list with $6 billion in unclassified prime obligations, yet the company is not resting on its laurels. 

Today, Gilliland is championing an evolving, expanding digital consulting practice at GDIT driven by the evolving needs of its many government customers and investing back into its workforce to position itself as a premier destination for technologists. Nextgov/FCW discussed these changes and more in this interview, which has been edited for clarity and length.

Nextgov/FCW: Amy, let’s begin with GDIT’s new focus on consulting.

Gilliland: We realized the market is telling us they need more from us. Our customers’ technology roadmaps — what they were envisioning for five years from now — was something that they needed immediately, or in the next 12 to 24 months. Unfortunately, I think historically GDIT has been perceived both internally and externally as an executor, but we weren’t the ‘big idea’ guys.

And that is not a position that we can afford to be in in the current environment, because our customers are trying to figure out what their next steps are. And there's nobody in my mind that is more well versed to offer them advice than somebody that is executing and living in their spaces with them every day. This is about inculcating a consultative mindset in the culture of this company, and I’ll tell you, it’s a major pivot.

Nextgov/FCW: I imagine a full-fledged consulting arm is no small lift. What does the shift look like for your employees?

Gilliland: We reimagined what a consultative company needs, and what the folks on the front line need. And they need these engineers, software developers and technologists to understand what’s in their pipeline.

And in order to do that, they need to go out and see their customers. So, we have refined the model that we're using and we have funded these technologists to go develop frameworks that can be presented to customers. So they're hearing what the business needs, and that is informing their work. Before, it was a very passive organization, and now it is a very active organization. And its work and focus is really dictated by the business and the business is dictated by the customers.

We needed this group centrally located so they can offer successes that we’ve had in one part of the organization elsewhere. And so driving that kind of collaboration in the company has been really important.

Nextgov/FCW: Okay, so bigtime shift in the last year and a half, with some of your best and brightest people consulting on cloud, AI, cybersecurity, 5G and quantum computing. Are there any early wins you can talk about on that front?

Gilliland: The short answer is yes. The Digital Consulting practice has impacted dozens of deals and we have over 200 opportunities in the pipeline valued at approximately $50 billion.

Nextgov/FCW: This is a new competitive market for GDIT, then? How are you positioned?Gilliland: Many of the consulting arms are now trying to figure out how they move from the consulting side into the execution side, whereas [GDIT] has been executing. And I would argue GDIT is far more well positioned, given that we’re in these environments every day, to also offer advice. We’re trying to pivot to say that at GDIT, we are part of the beginning, middle and end of the lifecycle of a contract.

Nextgov/FCW: Let’s talk about your approach to company culture.

Gilliland: In order to succeed as a technology company, people have to want to go there. I’m challenging the workforce here to have the latest and greatest in technology because that attracts talent to the company.

Another piece of wanting to be at a company is that employees care desperately about what the environment is. Do they have a seat at the table? From, you know, our younger generation having their voices heard on diversity, inclusion or something that is focused on what our community and sustainability goals are, and more importantly, do leaders care? People want to understand that they're going to be at a cutting edge tech technology company that cares about its people, and we've been very much focused on leadership. We've been talking about how leadership has changed in the aftermath of COVID and trying to help our leaders lead better in this environment, leading new generations in a hybrid workforce.

The last piece is that everybody has a role to play in the growth of the company. That is the digital consulting mindset. How do we help people see how their role moves the company forward? So everybody this year has a goal on their goal sheet — all 28,000 employees — that makes them a growth officer for GDIT. And they have responsibilities in this company to be aware of the technology accelerators that we are investing in — Zero Trust, AI, AI ops, 5G, Hybrid Multi-Cloud, Software Factory, Defense Cyber Operations and Post Quantum Cryptography — and how they contribute to the success of the company moving forward. And that is very purposeful.

Nextgov/FCW: With all these changes, how do you measure success?

Gilliland: You can measure that in a variety of ways. First and foremost is our capture rate. Are we winning more? What is the dollar value of what we win versus the dollar value of what we bid, for instance? There’s a bunch of ways you can look at it from a growth perspective. Another way to look at it is, do we win our recompetes? We’re going to be measuring this over the course of the next 12 to 18 months to see how it comes out. There’s also a customer satisfaction part of the equation we need to measure.

I think part of succeeding as a technology company is that we need these technologists to continue to learn and evolve in their careers. And so we’re mandating career conversations at GDIT. Every employee has to have one with their boss, and we’re measuring that not in a perfunctory way.

We have doubled our financial investment in our technical training and quadrupled the number of certifications to help employees upskill in areas like cyber, AI and cloud. And that’s been a success: We’re seeing retention improve and attrition decline, and we’re getting a lot of positive feedback.

Nextgov/FCW: Finally, what’s your stance on remote work? We’re seeing a lot of companies and federal agencies calling for a return to the office.

Gilliland: I'd say we are flexible, where we can be, but also firm on in-person when it's appropriate. Generally our employees are in the office several days a week, and of course, we have employees that serve on secure programs, and they don't have that kind of flexibility. But I believe strongly that the in-person connection needs to be maintained, and that it is an important part of our success. So I'm encouraging leaders to nurture and foster that in-person component, while also understanding that flexibility is something that's expected by the workforce that we're trying to attract and retain.