John Wasson, CEO of ICF and a two-time Wash100 Award recipient, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the company’s recent acquisition of SemanticBits as well as its impact on ICF’s capabilities and how they will assist federal health agencies across the public sector during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with John Wasson below:
ExecutiveBiz: Congrats on the recent acquisition of SemanticBits! What can you tell us about how ICF’s capabilities will now better help U.S. federal health agencies as well as assist in more complex projects across the public sector?
John Wasson: “We’re excited about the acquisition of SemanticBits. The federal health sector is undergoing a lot of change, transformation and unprecedented pressure. Federal health agencies are experiencing an overwhelming need to improve their information sharing as well as their data management and interoperability between systems to deliver positive health outcomes.
From a technology and an IT modernization standpoint, these are the key areas of expertise that are core to SemanticBits’ mission. They’re one of the leading providers of digital modernization solutions, which includes a keen focus on life sciences and bioinformatics, to federal health agencies.
For the last 15 years, SemanticBits has designed and developed leading-edge health IT software and data management solutions for federal agencies. They bring a full suite of scalable digital modernization services and use open-source frameworks and cloud-native solutions to provide these capabilities and services.
Bringing on SemanticBits is key to our goal of helping federal health agencies meet their missions and scaling our open-source capabilities and cloud-native solutions. Obviously, we were very interested in expanding ICF’s portfolio with these capabilities to support larger and more complex data management projects, as there’s a lot of opportunity for that in the federal space right now. The acquisition will help ICF compete and win for these types of projects.
One of the largest clients that was very much at the center of the map is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which has been experiencing significant growth along with a wide range of accompanying new challenges.
We’re working with them to provide open-source solutions, data management, and IT services to help navigate these hurdles, all of which will be strengthened by bringing on SemanticBits. We’re putting all these sets of capabilities together—alongside our longstanding domain expertise in public health and healthcare delivery—to offer comprehensive solutions for our current and future clients.
We’re also finding there is a broad array of federal agencies who are interested in low-code and no-code solutions as they continue to refine their digital modernization efforts. We need to meet those demands, and we do so by working with many platforms and services to deliver solutions that are specific to each agency’s needs.
The other key component of the acquisition is the open-source side. ICF had some existing open-source capabilities, but our SemanticBits acquisition takes us to a new level. With the 450 technologists they’re bringing to the table, we’ll be able to offer an expansive suite of additional services to our federal clients.
We’re focused on scaling across these types of platforms to allow us to serve all aspects of the market. The next move for ICF is to take this into a broader set of civilian agencies that can also leverage our domain expertise to implement their mission and address their challenges.”
ExecutiveBiz: How will SemanticBits fit into ICF’s mission and the recent acquisition of ESAC and others over the last year?
John Wasson: “At the highest level, ICF is a growth company. In the 16 years since our company went public, we’ve maintained a very consistent upward trajectory and organic growth in the market, which includes inorganic growth through acquisitions. We put a real emphasis on being entrepreneurial and we intend to keep it that way.
A key part of our strategy is adding these different sets of capabilities that keep a constant wave of new services for our customers, as well as help ICF drive our business for growth and new clients as well. The acquisition of SemanticBits is a prime example of our success.
This is the third acquisition that ICF has done in the last six months. Back in November, we acquired ESAC, which brought in advanced analytics, research, data management and other critical areas like bioinformatics.
Then we purchased Creative Systems and Consulting towards the end of 2021. That was big for ICF in terms of significant capabilities it opened up around Salesforce and on the low-code/no-code side. With these acquisitions, we’ve cemented a wide range of new critical digital offerings we can provide to clients.
We’ve married all of that with our data analytics expertise to enhance our ability to provide end-to-end solutions for our federal health clients. As we look at the market for ICF in terms of growth and potential, our largest growth areas are in IT modernization and digital transformation.
At ICF, we pride ourselves on being an impact company, too. We help our clients carry out their mission objectives and address the issues of the day. With SemanticBits on board, we’re going to be able to work on more complex projects and problems in the federal arena with immediate and long-term impact for our clients.
At the end of the day, our professionals at ICF get out of bed in the morning because they are passionate about what they get to do with us every day. They want to impact and make a difference in public health, healthcare delivery and bringing leading edge technology into the federal government.”
ExecutiveBiz: From a culture perspective, how do you manage to integrate these companies to maintain their success as they join ICF to create a strong workforce and working environment for all your people and drive your business forward?
John Wasson: “We pay very close attention and put a lot of time into our company culture. ICF has built a very strong culture and we manage it carefully. The first gate for potential acquisitions is a cultural evaluation. A lot of acquisitions start with cultural alignment.
At ICF, we’re a very collaborative bunch. We’re at our best when we bring interdisciplinary teams together to solve complex problems. We thrive on collaboration and we’re a very diverse group that includes scientists, engineers, technologists, and policy experts. We bring great interdisciplinary staff to solve problems in innovative ways.
We’re solving problems around climate and resilience with our federal and state local clients. We’re also heavily involved in disaster management, designing and implementing many disaster recovery programs to help our clients repair infrastructure or help homeowners repair their homes or property after hurricanes or other natural disasters.
And roughly 25 percent of our business is commercial where our energy experts work with regulated utilities to implement new energy efficiency programs. ICF is deeply involved in the whole transformation of the energy industry to renewable energy.
ICF has maintained its growth across all these markets for more than 35 years and having our hands in as many markets as we do is quite unusual in this sector. It’s a very exciting time in terms of everything we’re experiencing on the growth side.
And all of this is possible because we are a people business. People are what drives the business forward, and ICF has created a strong culture and broad cultural alignment through our acquisitions. Historically, we’ve had a very low staff turnover rate.
That’s a big part of our culture when people come into our company. If they’re a good fit, they tend to stay with ICF for the long term, which makes our recruiting a lot easier and helps attract new people into our organization. I think the opportunity to bring SemanticBits into the fold will greatly benefit all our employees.
We’re thrilled about the opportunities for ICF over the next couple of years. I’m really excited about the trends and challenges that are going to need to be addressed for the long term, and we’ll continue to take advantage of the latest growth opportunities across our areas of expertise, which continue to grow.”