Skip to content

Extending Enterprise 2.0 at Booz Allen with MindTouch

While at At Enterprise 2.0 Boston this year, I had chatted with Walton Smith and Aaron Fulkerson about Booz Allen’s Enterprise 2.0 systems used internally and for Government 2.0 work.

I asked Walton to go over the the internal system they’ve been using: the features & functionality it provides and how they’ve been evolving it. We then switch gears to how Booz is applying those same practices and technologies to their Government 2.0 practice. MindTouch is one of the technologies behind Booz’s Enterprise 2.0 use here and Aaron jumps in from time-to-time to tell us about it.

Full Transcript

Michael Coté: Well, hello everybody here we are at Enterprise 2.0 in Boston. It’s actually quite lovely weather and I’m joined by two guests here to talk about some of the actually interesting stuff that’s going on in the Enterprise 2.0 space.

Walton Smith: Hello! I’m Walton Smith with Booz Allen Hamilton, we are a large consulting firm based in McLean, Virginia and we’ve got a big focus on Enterprise 2.0.

Michael Coté: And yourself?

Aaron Fulkerson: Aaron Fulkerson, I’m the CEO of MindTouch and we build the platform for what lots of folks call a “social business platform” or “Enterprise 2.0 platform.” I like to think about it more in terms of “strategic content.”

Michael Coté: I think this morning if I have my dates right that you guys had a kind of a joint press release that you are guys were using you are using MindTouch for your internal, your — what was it called, what you call it exactly.

Walton Smith: We call it

Michael Coté: There you go; I knew it was like a very nice cutesy name.

Walton Smith: We try to make it – well I mean we were 23,000 employees so we want it to be the entry point for one who is looking for the right piece of information or the right person, so.

Michael Coté: Right.

Walton Smith: This time last year, we were honored to win the innovative implementation of the year award here at the E20 conference. But we weren’t happy with all we had. We know that it’s a continual process – your E20 is not easy and so we looked at what we had and went out and worked and we improve what we had. And we reached out to some of the partners we had – MindTouch being one of them – to come in and take a look at what we had and make recommendations on how we can continue to move the ball forward.

Michael Coté: What are the mechanics of what people are doing with it, day to day?

Walton Smith: We are trying to breakdown the silence of information that — that happens in most organizations. We did a survey two years ago to see where we stood and for the first time over 50% of our folks were not in Booz Allen offices anymore. They were in the client site the majority of the time.

Michael Coté: Right.

Walton Smith: I think something like 40% of our firm has been with us for less than 2 years so we’ve got a tremendous growth within our firm but we sure have lots of people have been there for 8 to 18 years.

Michael Coté: Right, right.

Walton Smith: So we needed a platform they could capture both explicit and tacit knowledge and make it available for that new workforce – we are hiring 5,000 people this year.

Michael Coté: Right.

Walton Smith: So we need to be able to get them the tools that they need to be successful and most of our growth is outside of DC area. So it’s not like in McLean where we have five buildings were we can walk across the campus and go ask question. If you were in the middle of nowhere, and you need to able to find the right information at the right time, to meet your client’s needs

Michael Coté: Right.

Walton Smith: And so that’s what we look forward with our E20 platform.

Michael Coté: I mean it sounds like with the, sort of, distributed folks that you have and also like, you know, to your point of being not only geographically dispersed but “experience dispersed” – that you, kind of, need to rely on technology to, kind of, accelerate easy collaborate, you know, easy like information sharing and working together with each other.

Walton Smith: I mean what I say is OutLook’s the face of collaboration tools within the most organizations.

Michael Coté: Right.

Walton Smith: It’s not searchable, it’s not scalable but it’s what we have.

Michael Coté: Right.

Walton Smith: If you been with Booz Allen for 15 years you have the network you need to be successful. You know who to email, you know who to pick up the phone and call. If you are new to the firm, how do you tap in to that, how do you know who the point person in the same office if you got a question about what are we doing at [client] X? I call them “do you know? emails”: does anybody know what we are doing here, and we all get them and the great thing about our firm is people respond to, but you respond once and someone said what are we doing at client X? well I don’t have anything to do with client X I delete [the email].

If my client or my boss comes to meet two weeks later and what are we doing client X all we could do in the past was resend that email to all and you might or might not get the person respond. What we are trying to do is to capture both what’s structured, explicit, and tested knowledge within our platform so you can go search, what are we doing in client X and find the information you need still to reach out and call Aaron and say “Aaron, I see that you are doing Y at client X. Do you think it will be applicable for what I’m doing here?” – and you are 1,000 times more likely respond to me if I have taken the time to given to reach the starting point of were the information we had.

Michael Coté: Like you said, you had, like, a year I guess for – you know going back in history you kind of build who you are now and like how I mean that’s – I imagine unlike other large companies you guys are extremely nimble and you can just crank stuff out – right? – no problem… But how did you manage the process of, like, doing things that rapidly and, kind of, adding stuff in?

Walton Smith: Sure, I want our senior leadership – I would tell our senior leadership team and say: look, we need to be, get the best and the brightest on our team. So I was able to get folks that were client facing they will be able to come in and have Agile process to be able to push our releases every two to three weeks – but when we are looking at the vendors we wanted to work with, we needed some to get fit into that mind set we didn’t have time to do a ten month study, but we needed able to come in do a conversion from what our previous provider was to what they had and that’s where MindTouch was able to come in and help us.

Aaron Fulkerson: This is pretty typical what we are seeing at MindTouch: companies are able to prototype quickly and rapidly iterate on our platform. But it’s the domain experts like Booz Allen Hamilton that are able to understand what an organization’s needs are, what their processes are today, and where they need to be. And given the technology that we are delivering to them [the ability to] prototype and iterate rapidly – well [the domain knowledge is] not our expertise, obviously.

So our government customers within this multiplicity of government agencies that Booz is building on top of – what they are driving value from is okay, perhaps a little bit of technology but its more their domain expertise and understanding were their culture is today, where they can squeeze out and really get some significant productivity gains by prototyping and rapidly iterating it.

Michael Coté: We are talking about your internal use of MindTouch and, you know. Are you putting your platform in the actually revenue generating side of Booz? Like, are you guys selling it or using that as part of the go to market stuff?

Walton Smith: Definitely., I like to say is my night time job. My day time job is leading up our Government 2.0 practice, we were focused primarily on the federal government and we are seeing the same problems that we had I mean Washington Post forecasted. The federal government will have to hire 500,000 people in the 10 years.

And most of the government agencies I’m sitting down with ask have thier traditional systems of collaborating, joined knowledge – but they…are they ready to tackle that challenge and that’s when the competitions did really good. And so we come in and provide the domain expertise, the security, the IT all the things that change management all the things that need to be successful and then we partnered with companies like MindTouch and other vendors.

Michael Coté: Since you are – like what is the base line, of like were most agencies or what our, you know, government folks are starting at?

Walton Smith: It’s definitely improving. I mean we are not a 100% there yet but they know that the challenges they have are continuing to grow and their budgets are going to continue to shrink. So they got to do more with less, they know the demographics of what they are facing.

So I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the government agencies we are working with, that they really want to be cutting edge, they want to do a good job. We found that in most cases they already have about 80% of the technology they need but it’s focused on PeopleSoft, for their HR and SharePoint for their documents and they have, bits of pieces are there but nothing tied together with the focus on individual employee.

Michael Coté: It’s [missing] that integration that glues that all together, right.

Walton Smith: It’s integrated from a IT perspective but it’s not integrated from an employee perspective. So they are not really empowering the employees to provide, to use the information in a useful way I mean when is the last time you went and checked your PeopleSoft profile, there is no value but if we can cobble that together and have that be part of our profile dynamically – and so if I’m looking for, in Booz Allen’s case, if I’m looking for a cleared person whose got this certification and lives here all that information resided in our systems its just not in a way that can be, can found easily.

Michael Coté: Well, great. Well, I appreciate you guys going over this stuff, thanks!

Aaron Fulkerson: Yeah, thank you!

Disclosure: MindTouch is a client and sponsored this video.

Categories: Collaborative, RedMonkTV.