Douglas Charles, president and chief executive of Capgemini Government Solutions, during a market development presentation at the company’s digital collaboration center in the District. (Jeffrey MacMillan/For The Washington Post)

For the first few years, Capgemini Government Solutions was content to serve as a subcontractor, helping larger companies complete projects with federal agencies.

Though it was part of the much larger Capgemini, a roughly 125,000-employee consulting business based in Europe, the company played a low-profile role in U.S. government work.

But in the past year, Capgemini has rapidly reworked its strategy, appointing a new corporate executive to head the business, opening a District office near federal offices and winning a prime position on a major Department of Homeland Security contracting program.

The efforts, said Douglas Charles, who now heads the roughly 160-employee group, are part of a strategy to better leverage the unit’s parent company to turn heads in government.

“We’ve got to stop acting like Capgemini [is just a] small business,” he said. “We’ve got to act like Capgemini, but have the agility of a small business.”

Charles, who previously worked in Capgemini’s application services business unit and spent several years running McLean-based Science Applications International Corp.’s commercial business, contends that the timing is right for Capgemini to broaden its aspirations.

The government, he said, is more open than ever to commercial technology and practices in areas like mobility, big data, cloud computing and social media.

Steven VanRoekel, the U.S. chief information officer, has established efforts to modernize the government’s technology, including making more information available to citizens online and allowing employees to do work on the go.

To demonstrate its rebooted focus on the government market, Capgemini has opened an office near L’Enfant Plaza. The office is set up as a collaboration center, with space to host federal agencies that want to hold meetings.

The company has retained a Reston headquarters, but Charles said the District office has become a place to not only host government officials — about 50 have come through this year — but also employees based at nearby federal agencies who drop by.

Earlier this year, Capgemini won a spot on the Department of Homeland Security’s Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions II contract vehicle — better known as EAGLE II. The IT services program is worth up to $22 billion over seven years.

The company has also bolstered its state and local work, winning last month a deal worth up to $60 million to design and implement an unemployment insurance benefits system in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

Still, Charles acknowledged that the company is expanding just as the government contracts its spending.

“Any services business — you’d rather be good in a rising tide than great in a lowering tide,” he said. But, Charles contends that the company is in a better position than others given that it’s still seeking out new areas and agencies.

“We’re flexible enough to still morph our identity,” he said.