Teresa Bozzelli leads Sapient‘s U.S. public sector arm — Sapient Government Services — as president and brings a 20-year background in technology and strategy to her role at the company.
In this conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Bozzelli offers a preview of SGS’ agenda for the rest of 2015 and what could be in store for 2016, the role of digital technology in forming connections between citizens and agencies and offers insight into Publicis Groupe’s $3.7 billion acquisition of Sapient.
ExecutiveBiz: What is the upcoming focus for Sapient Government Services this year and next year?
Teresa Bozzelli: As digital transformation is changing the way government, health and nonprofit organizations are responding to disruption, Sapient Government Services is focused on short-term and long-term initiatives to help these organizations navigate this transformation.
Our short-term focus is on two areas of the digital government experience: the citizen, also considered the consumer of government services and the digital government worker. We are focused on looking across the holistic digital worker-to-digital citizen experience not just the immediate touch points or needs.
We creatively consider experiences beyond a new web platform or mobile app and focus on establishing a trusted connection. As part of that, we developed a framework called “the trust equation” to create a link between trust across all interactions by leveraging our expertise in cybersecurity. To have a robust digital worker-to-digital citizen experience, there has to be trust at the intersection and the foundation is cybersecurity.
The second area we looking at is dense or complex data and making it more consumable and actionable. This means digitally transforming any really large amount of data, whether it is health research or fixed survey data like commerce, and putting it into a consumable format across digital distribution channels; thereby, creating real, translatable value for specific audiences.
Finally, the third area involves extending the service paradigm. Historically, we’ve seen the emphasis on infrastructure improvements, such as the cloud. I’d like to see that concept and paradigm extended into service-as-a-service so the pricing of government services are based on results or outcomes as opposed to level of effort. Longer term, we believe that government and public service has to be more proactively personalized.
Right now as a consumer of government and services, I have to know what I want, and I have to go to where it is provided. In the future it should be available to me regardless of whether it is from federal, state or local agencies. With our experience in the commercial and nonprofit space, we understand how to link and create personalized public service across all layers of that delivery chain.
ExecutiveBiz: Within those areas you mentioned, what are some core target markets SGS has its eye on?
Teresa Bozzelli: We already have a very strong footprint in health and human services. We get very passionate about health issues, and we will continue to go big and deep in that area. It fits into the short-term objective to make scientific data and research more consumable for citizens and healthcare workers to build a broader trust relationship across agencies and within specific populations.
On the civilian side, we want to focus on “heavy data” related to commerce or citizen services. We are looking at potential applicability of leveraging our recruitment marketing, digital expertise and deep user experience development in new ways within areas that are undergoing massive transformation like education. We’ll be looking at how to apply these lessons across industries.
Finally, another area we are exploring is organizations with a financial mission. We have a business unit within Sapient that focuses heavily on the commercial financial sector market, and we would like to bring some of those best practices over, to tie that intersection a bit tighter. This work will ensure all citizens have good financial practices in their private and professional services lives.
ExecutiveBiz: What technology trend do you think will best help citizens connect with government?
Teresa Bozzelli: Technology today is both the solution and the problem. Historically, we’ve built solutions based on technology to serve a single mission, which suits government workers, but citizens don’t consume a single mission. Therefore, we have to use and integrate technology differently.
Today we’ve moved our technology to serving and providing service anywhere, anytime if it is authorized, through permission-based aggregation. In order to move us to a digital worker and citizen connection, we need to shift to a commercial technology implementation, where opportunity to engage is everywhere all the time, but only when it is helpful and relevant.
This is a proactive personalization, opt-out approach of technology implementation. Instead of a permission-based aggregation of service, it gives you a value-based aggregation based on the immediate needs of the consumer. The technologies are all there already. It is the way they are aggregated in the opt-in/opt-out approach of security that creates a different way of technology serving the mission.
In the early days of my federal work, the government couldn’t track anything related to consumer interactions, usage or involvement. The millennials expect this scenario even if our grandfathers don’t. We are going to have to shift our approach and implementation to an opt-out as opposed to an opt-in. Government has to allow this digital engagement to let the new consumer and the new worker connect differently.
ExecutiveBiz: How should firms like SGS participate in the digital technology adoption process?
Teresa Bozzelli: We have two responsibilities in working with our clients and our government. The first responsibility is to challenge the delivery channels. I have wonderful, transformative and sometimes heated discussions with government leaders on the relevance of their agency in five to ten years. It is my obligation as a thought leader and citizen to do that.
We can’t get complacent and be in business to do the status quo. We are obligated as leaders to push.
The second responsibility is to recognize that the consumers of government services are also daily consumers of commercial services. As part of a much larger commercial organization within the Sapient brand, SGS is obligated to bring those best practices, adoption techniques, different methods of marketing, advertising and digital commerce and putting those into an experience adoptable into the public sector services arena.
ExecutiveBiz: What experiences from prior work with agencies do you lean on at Sapient?
Teresa Bozzelli: When I first started my career at NASA, I worked with the space shuttle and station programs. I learned early on to be analytically sound in everything you do. My focus on using big resources of data goes back to scouring and reading scientific data. Although it may not always give the perfect answer, data must inform your thought process. I rely very heavily on data and appreciate that information is powerful.
My work at the EPA taught me to appreciate the outcome and the mission. It is not just about data, but it is also about the result or outcome, which people in the EPA care about deeply. The power is linking those two things together.
One of the things that we do at SGS which has evolved over time and has evolved my own leadership, is a strong focus on caring about what our clients care about. SGS has a simple code and what we believe in is built into our DNA: Embrace the mission, change the world, and improve lives. We use that code to filter the types of engagements we pursue, and how we deliver against them.
We’ve shifted from just thinking about big data as an IT problem into thinking about the way to use data and digital engagement to change the mission and the outcome of the missions for those clients. Our people are passionate about those missions, whether it is health, environment, energy or education for new shared responsibilities. We care deeply about what our clients are trying to do in the world.
In addition, we take that one step further and in our pro-bono activities we connect in the same kind of mission and outcome orientation. That is my evolution as a leader and how that translates back into the leadership and the strategic direction of SGS.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you update us on Sapient’s integration into Publicis Groupe? What potential market opportunities exist as a result of that transaction?
Teresa Bozzelli: The Sapient family became part of Publicis Groupe earlier this year which means a couple of things for Sapient Government Services and our value to public sector organizations. Although Sapient was already a large company worldwide, we now have an even larger and more diverse understanding of digital engagement that we can call on through the other members of the Publicis family.
Specifically, we are taking the opportunity to connect with other organizations that serve the health market. We now have a much stronger possibility to create a more connected health offering that would be a better intersection of government, public and commercial health. We have this future opportunity to look at what health could be in that partnership of a bigger set of constituency.
As Publicis Groupe does other government work, we look forward to connecting with our colleagues regarding the digital worker-digital citizen experience in other countries. We can both learn or offer something from what we have been able to accomplish here.