Troy Edgar, finance and supply chain transformation leader at IBM, brings experience from both sides of the government contracting equation — the public and private sectors. In addition to serving as the Department of Homeland Security’s chief financial officer, the former Navy submariner held roles like CFO and business operations leader of product support for military transport programs at Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, as well as consulting partner roles at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Global Conductor, before joining IBM.
Edgar is passionate about how to best serve the federal government and maximize the effectiveness of policies for all stakeholders. The executive sees his work as partner for IBM Consulting’s federal business as a prime opportunity to answer this call. He says that part of IBM’s success comes from a focus on strategic industry partnerships, understanding federal agencies’ challenges and by giving back to the community.
But there is always progress to be made. Edgar provided his perspective to ExecutiveBiz for this Spotlight interview.
What are your strategic goals for the coming year? What do you hope to accomplish and any new sectors that you’re keeping an eye on in the federal sector?
IBM is rapidly building on our existing business and growing in areas like supply chain, where we’re seeing tremendous opportunity to help our clients with enterprise visibility, risk management and sustainability driven by the Federal Sustainability Executive Order 14057 signed by President Biden on December 8, 2021.
Right now, I’m focusing on the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs’ supply chain modernization efforts. For the DoD, that includes helping to maintain the critical readiness of warfighters deployed world-wide with
the efficient maintenance and logistical support of shipyards, depots, manufacturing plants and arsenals.
How has business partnership helped IBM expand its position in the federal market, drive innovation and new capabilities?
The role of partnership has become increasingly important in the federal market, it’s really one of the most powerful forces in tech today across the commercial and government sectors. I’ve been a leader in corporate and government finance, supply chain and consulting for almost 30 years. As a federal client at DHS, I believed that expanding strategic industry partnerships would be the key to future success. In the last two years, especially in the federal market, I’ve been really excited to see this kind of pro-partnership push where all the companies that are in this space—whether it’s small businesses at the lowest level or large corporations like IBM—realize that we should work together to try to bring the best that we can bring to the federal government. Solutions to today’s government challenges cannot be addressed by one vendor alone. IBM’s partner unification work across technology and consulting is a demonstration of this phenomenon. The IBM Ecosystem is integral to IBM’s transformation story.
Thankfully, this mindset has been well-embraced with our federal agency clients. Because if it wasn’t, it would really force the departments and agencies to have to put together and manage a mosaic of support, versus working with one company that can bring its industry partners to the table – like our IBM Ecosystem. It’s been very exciting. I’ve been personally involved in some world class partnerships with companies like CGI, Boston Consulting Group, Palantir, Vectrus, Amazon and many others. One day you’re competing with them, the next day you’re working with them. It really provides a kind of coequal and professional work environment where the client comes first.
An important part of working in and around the government is giving back to the greater community. Can you speak to how you and IBM make a difference in the community?
As a Navy veteran, I dedicate my time outside of work to helping our veterans get the support and opportunities they deserve. I like to educate current active-duty service members about the transferability of their military experience and skill sets to the business environment, as well as support their ability to launch, manage and grow a new business.
As the IBM executive sponsor, mentor and board member to the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business for their Master of Business for Veterans, I work with a dedicated team of IBM leaders that serve as a resource to veterans, helping make a successful transition from the military and positioning them for roles at companies like IBM.
I also help promote and build veteran-owned businesses. Recently, I teamed with the Syracuse University D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families on their Veteran Entrepreneurship Success Summit in Washington, D.C.
Something you don’t see on my résumé is that I was a mayor and city council member for 12 years in Los Alamitos, California. I’ve served on city, county and state boards at the highest level in California, trying to give back. And I’ve also been on many charity boards. For over 12 years I’ve worked with the Casa Youth Shelter helping to provide a safe place for homeless youth in Southern California.
I think coming to IBM was an important part of my efforts to give back. While I was at DHS and looking at many of the other big tech companies, it was apparent to me that IBM really encouraged their employees to do more than just great work. They didn’t require it, but there were good examples of IBM employees and leaders really active in public service and I wondered what difference I could make if I was an executive at IBM. Now that I’m here, I can utilize that to not only help veterans, which is a big thing for me, but also to help IBM understand the value that veterans can bring as employees.
For the foreseeable future, IT modernization of systems, processes, data – everything – will be priority on the federal government’s agenda. What are some of the improvements you’re seeing in the defense health arena specifically, and what else needs to be addressed?
I’ve seen a significant shift in the defense health sector from, ‘rip and replace, everything can be fixed by technology’ to ‘let’s step back and plan.’ With this adjustment, the modernization play becomes more strategic, pragmatic and achievable.
It’s important to understand the last two decades of IT modernization policies; a lot of the response to the policies has been reactionary. Over time, those policies start adding up and crossing each other out, making an already complicated process even worse.
It’s critical that agencies, no matter the IT modernization policy of the day, start by taking a look at their mission, target operating model, the value they’d like to extract from data and how they’re doing business today. The question then becomes, if the process can’t be transformed, should they now invest in a new technology? Agencies are also realizing the benefits of technology as a service where operations and maintenance efforts become the responsibility of the vendor. This allows the agency to focus on their mission versus implementing and maintaining technology.
Current examples that are available today are supply chain and automation as a service. With supply chain for example, there is an opportunity to significantly reduce warehousing and logistics costs through a user centered designed order fulfillment service that streamlines the order entry process with the user and has the vendor manage and maintain the inventory and distribution. And with automation, using the VA’s benefits requests and claims processing as an example, the solution helps create a standardized user claim process that is automated using artificial intelligence and machine learning. This provides agency employees or the veterans themselves an almost real time, data-backed recommendation that is equitable and consistent with VA policies. There are endless opportunities for this process across the supply chain.