Insight by TechnoMile

3 strategies to put people first and help mature your contract management operation

This is the fifth article in our series, Leading Voices in Federal Contract Management.

“Things get done by people.”

That short sentence encapsulates what makes Szu Yang tick and how she approaches her role as the chief contracts officer at Peraton, which provides services and technology solutions to a wide range of government agencies and military branches.

“We have to continue be nimble, agile and resilient — stay sharp — so that no matter what...

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This is the fifth article in our series, Leading Voices in Federal Contract Management.

“Things get done by people.”

That short sentence encapsulates what makes Szu Yang tick and how she approaches her role as the chief contracts officer at Peraton, which provides services and technology solutions to a wide range of government agencies and military branches.

“We have to continue be nimble, agile and resilient — stay sharp — so that no matter what comes down the horizon, we’re ready to undertake the challenges. But irrespective of all of that, the constant for me that won’t change is that this is a people business. The contracts are people. Our missions are people,” Yang said.

She has made people front and center during Peraton’s massive growth over the past two years, from $1 billion in revenue in 2020 to over $7 billion today. As part of our Leading Voices in Federal Contract Management series, we asked Yang to share the ways that she uses that focus daily at Peraton.

Yang shared insights about how leading with people helps the contracts organization and the business succeed in three critical ways:

  • Integrating new people, tools and practices during mergers and acquisitions.
  • Expanding the use of technology to help drive business goals.
  • Keeping the contracts team invigorated and ready for new challenges.

“I’m not a huge sports person, but using a sports analogy: Even in sports with individual athletes, behind that athlete, there’s a team of folks that ensures that they are top-notch to win that championship, from coaches, nutritionists, doctors, so on and so forth, right down to the equipment selection,” she said. “So from the mindset of ‘It takes a team to win a championship,’ that’s how I lead at Peraton.”

Team insight No. 1: After a merger or acquisition, adopt a ‘one team’ perspective

The growth in the company has been constant over the past couple of years through a half-dozen mergers and acquisitions. It’s been thrilling, but also there’s the challenge of bringing together different cultures around people, technology and contracts, Yang said.

“We really had to find a way to ensure that everyone felt welcome at this new ‘One Peraton’ — really from day one,” she said.

Shape

The Team Dynamic in Contracts Management

It is actually not a luxury but a true need of any federal government contractor to have a comprehensive contract lifecycle management software.

It starts by deliberately not using the names of antecedent companies internally, whether in written items or in discussions. “Right off the bat, we focus on that and rally the team to really embrace that,” Yang said.

With technology, it’s always about picking the best of the best and adopting it, she said. That might be what’s already in house or it might mean going with what is gained through the acquisition. “We did some gap analysis, did some trace studies and coming out of that selected the tool set that would be best suited for our needs,” Yang said.

The contract piece often is the trickiest as that requires both a lot of customer management and the legal novation process of updating the parties to each deal. “We’re still finishing up some of the novation actions,” she said.

Team insight No. 2: Embrace tech and learn from your data

In contract management, technology use is paramount — for helping the business, for helping the team and for attracting new acquisition talent, Yang said.

“The days of being able to manage the contracts department or the contracts — in this landscape that we’re in — using spreadsheets and SharePoint sites are well over. Those days are bygone,” she said. “It is actually not a luxury but a true need of any federal government contractor to have a comprehensive contract lifecycle management software.”

Shape

Technology and Contract Lifecycle Management

Oftentimes, I find that some people don’t even know the untapped potential they have, and they just need that little nudge. I do that quite often within my team.

The most pressing reason is data — being able to access information in real time to help support internal business needs and to help support the mission needs of the government organizations that the company serves, Yang said.

From that perspective, Peraton has mature contract management technology customized by its people to align with the company’s business approach and workflow, she said.

Next up is the introduction of more artificial intelligence, natural language processing and robotic process automation. Yang pointed to numerous research initiatives underway in the company as well as alongside federal partners to develop and implement NLP, AI and machine learning capabilities.

“There’s a lot of ways that we can harness the power of those types of technology in terms of contracts management,” she said. “Whether it’s utilizing bots to read through contracts as an initial starting point to being a little bit more automated in terms of the way that we capture clauses into our lifecycle management system.”

Team insight No. 3: Always make time to challenge and mentor your people

Yang leans on her own personal experience of getting her first job in federal contracting at an 8A firm in Washington, D.C. She said that she “took a leap of faith” after college when the job was offered to her by a long-time patron of her parents’ restaurant.

She advises regularly giving people challenges where they can prove themselves and putting them in uncomfortable situations so that they can gain the experience needed to take that leap.

“Oftentimes, I find that some people don’t even know the untapped potential they have, and they just need that little nudge. I do that quite often within my team,” Yang said.

As a woman executive in the heavily male-dominated technology, cybersecurity and acquisition arenas, she also has stepped up to take on this challenge on a macro scale within Peraton. She is the executive sponsor of its Women’s Impact Network, which is open to all employees and provides a structured environment for mentoring, coaching and networking.

Ultimately, helping people and creating great teams is “about bringing a team together, harnessing diversity of thought, diversity of background and figuring out how to fit all that together to have a winning approach moving forward,” Yang said. “When I think about that and put myself in somewhat of a head coach position, it’s my responsibility, in addition to being open to the diversity of thought and background, to also provide constructive and honest feedback, where we’re doing great things, not so great things and always be supportive.”

To read more articles in the Leading Voices in Federal Contract Management series, click here.

Listen to the full show:

Featured speakers

  • Szu Yang

    Chief Contracts Officer, Peraton

  • Vanessa Roberts

    Editor, Custom Content, Federal News Network