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Contracts VP Melinda Armsworthy Explains How SMX Is Distinguishing Itself in Competitive GovCon Market

Contracts VP Melinda Armsworthy Explains How SMX Is Distinguishing Itself in Competitive GovCon Market - top government contractors - best government contracting event

SMX is a mid-sized provider of information technology services like cloud, command, control, communications, cyber and advanced engineering to a wide variety of government agencies, as well as private sector clients. Melinda Armsworthy has been with the company over 17 years, steadily making her way up the ladder, and is now vice president of contracts for the organization, which is owned by private equity investor OceanSound Partners. Armsworthy is based in Maryland and supports more than 15 SMX offices worldwide.

Armsworthy began her career at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Southern Maryland, working as a program analyst on a contract for a defense contractor. She’s been a longtime committed member of the GovCon community, nurturing skills in negotiation, administration and execution of contracts; contractual deliverables and financial reporting; and proposal development and pricing.

ExecutiveBiz had the opportunity to connect with Armsworthy for a Spotlight interview, during which she went in-depth on SMX’s culture, how it’s performing in competitive business areas like artificial intelligence and cybersecurity and where she sees the company in a decade.

Tell me about SMX’s culture. What aspects of the company do you think are contributing most to its success while helping to attract and retain top-level talent?

The culture of SMX is centered around our five core values: adapt deliberately, clients first, communicate transparently, cultivate belonging and invest in our people. Communicating transparently, cultivating belonging and investing in our people are particularly important to me as a leader, especially in our new remote work environment where we don’t see each other in the office daily. Regular meetings with my directors and their direct reports for information sharing, open communication and collaboration are crucial. These values significantly impact employee morale, team building and professional development opportunities.

SMX has implemented a new career architecture program, laying the foundation for investing in our workforce through internal growth and mobility opportunities. As a leader, I feel it’s my responsibility to provide my team with as many opportunities as possible, which is my way of paying it forward. The culture and executive leadership of SMX have afforded me many professional growth opportunities during my tenure, for which I am very grateful. I have been with SMX for almost 18 years and have witnessed its evolution from a small to midsize business to a 1,500-person organization. Our significant growth is partly due to SMX operating at the nexus of mission and technology, focusing on impactful client missions.

My department, which is part of the organization’s Business Partner Support group, adheres to the core value of clients first, serving both external and internal clients. Our internal clients are our business groups and their personnel, and we must meet their needs within the organization. The mission of my team, the Contracts BPS, is to provide best-in-class support by anticipating roadblocks for proactive resolution, increasing efficiency through automation and effectively managing contract execution. We aim to maximize operational performance, minimize risk, provide highly valued services and be recognized for our expertise, leadership and support to enhance our corporate reputation.

We continually implement the core value of adapting deliberately in our daily tasks. Multitasking, flexibility and the ability to switch gears at any moment are essential. We strive to improve our processes and procedures and attract and retain top-level talent. SMX was recently awarded the 2024 Top Workplaces USA award by Energage, recognized for excelling in innovation, leadership, work-life flexibility, compensation and benefits. These are some of the key aspects of our culture and how we contribute every day.

What factors or GovCon industry trends are influencing your growth strategy as you look toward SMX’s future?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are not merely trends but pivotal elements of the next technological revolution. While organizations are keen to leverage these technologies, overcoming challenges related to data reliability, bias and accuracy is paramount. Beyond just automation and efficiency gains, there must be a robust framework addressing data validity from both corporate and customer support perspectives. Additionally, safeguarding proprietary data against intellectual property risks requires innovative solutions such as advanced encryption techniques and blockchain for traceable data integrity. A comprehensive strategy encompassing these aspects can foster trust and drive more widespread AI and ML adoption.

Incorporating AI and ML within our operations should enhance, not diminish, human interactions. Our focus remains on maintaining genuine connections with customers while leveraging AI to augment these relationships. For instance, AI can provide deeper insights into customer needs, allowing for more personalized and meaningful engagements. As the government shifts away from vendor lock-ins and embraces integrated data science and ML solutions, we are positioned to create bespoke, agile solutions that support this transition. Building strong internal teams and fostering a culture of continuous innovation are central to SMX’s strategy, ensuring we stay ahead in this evolving landscape.

Cybersecurity is more critical than ever in the face of evolving cyber threats. With the integration of AI and ML, enhancing data security measures is imperative. AI-driven security systems can proactively identify and mitigate threats in real-time, significantly reducing vulnerabilities. The implementation of Executive Order 14058 underscores the need for a holistic approach to technology that prioritizes user-friendliness, equity and transparency. By adopting AI and ML responsibly, we can improve efficiency and empower our workforce to solve complex problems, ensuring our services are both secure and user centric.

Automation, driven by AI, is transforming organizational efficiency. As we harness the potential of AI, we must look beyond immediate gains to reimagine workflows and operational models fundamentally. Predictive analytics, intelligent process automation and adaptive learning systems are set to revolutionize how we operate, creating unprecedented opportunities for innovation and growth. Embracing these advancements will position us at the forefront of industry transformation.

Where do you see SMX in 10 years and what are the concrete steps you have to take to get to that stage of evolution?

SMX is a private equity-backed company supported by OceanSound Partners. In 2023, SMX completed two strategic acquisitions: Outside Analytics and Creoal Consulting. These acquisitions are enhancing our current capabilities and adding new ones, helping us grow and better support our clients’ missions.

In a decade, SMX will have expanded its influence by pioneering solutions that enhance client mission success. To achieve this, we must leverage our core strengths in cloud modernization, digital transformation, cybersecurity, data analytics and mission intelligence. Our future vision involves not just adapting to client needs but anticipating and solving the most complex challenges ahead. By prioritizing our clients and continuously evolving our solutions, we aim to drive forward their missions and achieve transformative impact.

What’s the most impactful trend you’re currently seeing in the GovCon market? How are you seeing GovCon organizations respond to that trend?

In the GovCon sector, several trends are emerging that we’re actively responding to. One major trend is the focus on increasing small business federal contracting opportunities. Agencies are working to reduce barriers to entry for small businesses. Our proactive response includes forming mentor-protégé and joint venture agreements to support and partner with small businesses, providing them with opportunities to bid on and participate in solicitations, thus expanding their business base. By fostering these partnerships, we not only expand our business base but also contribute to a more diverse and dynamic contracting ecosystem.

Workforce challenges are another significant trend, affecting both the government and private sectors. Recruiting, retention, diversity programs, wage compensation and skill development are all critical issues. At SMX, we face a competitive talent market in high-demand skill areas. Therefore, we prioritize professional development, work-life integration, flexible work locations and a robust talent development engine. Identifying the skills needed to support client missions and implementing upskilling and reskilling programs are foundational to our strategy, allowing us to adapt as skill demands change.

The use of indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts, such as governmentwide acquisition contracts, or GWACs, and multi-agency contracts, or MACs, is increasing. While these contracts can create barriers for small businesses, we are fortunate to hold numerous GWAC and MAC ID/IQ contracts as a prime and work with many small business partners. These vehicles help us provide customers with efficient solutions and meet our small business subcontracting goals.

Supply chain management has gained heightened importance, focusing on improving customer satisfaction, reducing costs, managing risks, increasing competitiveness and gaining market share. The government is increasing scrutiny of supply chains, implementing Federal Acquisition Regulation actions to address issues like counterfeit parts, cyber threats and prohibiting the use of IT hardware and software from hostile nation-states. We continuously monitor the regulatory environment and update our processes and technology to comply with these changes.

Building and nurturing supplier relationships is key to our success. We prioritize partnerships with suppliers that offer specialized skills and technologies that complement our capabilities. These strategic alliances enable us to deliver enhanced service and mission capabilities to our customers, fostering a collaborative environment that drives innovation and excellence.

Finally, continuous improvement is crucial. Adhering to stringent certifications and quality standards, we embrace digital transformation to stay ahead in a dynamic, interconnected environment. This commitment ensures our long-term success and adaptability across various sectors, including federal government contracting and the Department of Defense. By continuously refining our processes and embracing new technologies, we remain poised to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.

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