Barbour takes the helm of Lockheed’s IT unit


Sondra Barbour of Lockheed Martin. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN)
May 19, 2013

Sondra L. Barbourtook over in April what might be the most challenged unit of Bethesda-based defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

The information systems and global solutions unit — encompassing much of the company’s IT work — is a shorter-cycle business, meaning government spending cuts generally hit it faster than, say, an aerospace unit, where development and production take place over many years.

Still, Barbour, who served as Lockheed’s chief information officer starting in 2008 and spent more than two decades at a predecessor information systems and global solutions business, said the company has in place a strategy to win new work internationally and in growing sectors, such as cybersecurity.

Barbour, who succeeds Linda Gooden, recently sat down with Capital Business. What follows are excerpts from that conversation:

We keep hearing information systems and global solutions is the unit under budget pressure. How do you protect the business?

The strategy we have is one of looking at our traditional core customers and ensuring that we are performing, but then we also focus internationally. We look at our adjacencies, [of] which cyber is the largest. [While] some of [our contracts] are quick-turn, some of them are very large-scale. We’re actually seeing that we’re getting contract extensions because [government customers are] not looking to go to a full-up procurement because that takes cost. Right now, if you’re performing, they’re willing to do that.

Are you seeing more “lowest price, technically acceptable” contracts?

They are more in the area of commodity IT. We’re not seeing as many as industry believes [are] out there.

Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics both have said they’re walking away from certain opportunities because there’s not sufficient profit. Are you having to do the same thing?

If we cannot provide what we believe is the right technology with the right resources because of cost, then we will unfortunately need to no-bid it. You don’t do yourself a favor if you put in something you don’t believe you can achieve.

IS & GS is also likely the unit with the most competitors. How do you deal with that?

We partner both with our traditional competitors as well as some of the new entrants. That’s one way to ensure the customer gets what they need. [In] data analytics, for example, someone can provide a platform for analytics, but there’s not a company out there that has the intelligence analysts we have that can make sense of the data.

Your pitch then is agencies need an integrator to help them manage new technology?

To go to cloud — it’s easier said than done. If you don’t understand the connectivity of what this part of the department does versus [that] part of the department — in some cases, we’re talking real mission capability. You need to look at that in a way that some of the other competitors that are new to this kind of space can’t appreciate because they haven’t been there on the front lines.

What about Lockheed looking at commercial opportunities? Is that a struggle to sell to a different market?

It’s not a struggle. What it is, is making sure you understand the landscape and how these customers look to buy.

Don’t those commercial companies want technology faster?

That’s our business. Where we’ve had to perhaps change our tactic is [for] our traditional customers, we were providing exactly what they need. Some of these other customers want to buy it right off the shelf. We’ve had to change our mind-set into okay, well how do you package this such that it does satisfy a broader range of customers?

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