In the thick of it
- By Judi Hasson
- Nov 11, 2001
The day after the Sept. 11 tragedies, Paul Cofoni, the new president of Computer Sciences Corp.'s Federal Sector, sat down to write some personal letters.
To every employee at CSC Federal who lost a relative or friend, he sent a handwritten note. To every CSC Federal worker called up for active duty in the armed forces, he later sent one, too. Not stopping there, he set up a charitable fund that has so far raised more than $784,000 to help the families of attack victims.
Cofoni (pronounced Ko-PHONE) is known for his hands-on approach to every job he tackles. And since he took over the job as president of CSC Federal eight months ago, he has made his mark.
Every Monday, he reports to work at the Internal Revenue Service, where CSC is the prime contractor for the IRS modernization program — a multiyear, multibillion-dollar project to transform the paper-based agency into a paperless one.
"I'm trying to make it a first priority," Cofoni said. "I try to make myself available to them to learn about the business of the IRS.... The best way to contribute is to just be there."
Cofoni also brings his own brand of leadership to the job. Known as a hard worker, a leader and a boss who is able to generate intense loyalty, he is respectful of others and their ideas and humble about his own, say his friends and colleagues.
"He has worked his way up through the ranks. He is focused on what is right for the company," said Mary Jo Morris, who has known him for 18 years and is president of CSC's Technology Management Group, which handles commercial outsourcing. Cofoni previously held her position.
Cofoni has always been a hands-on worker. Since his days in the Army, he has never waited for protocol. When he arrived at his office on one military base, he took a broom and got rid of the dirt and dust himself. Stationed in a small German town at the age of 21, he was responsible for the safety of 10 nuclear warheads. And like everything else he has done, he took that job seriously.
"I've always been in the field," he said. "I feel comfortable picking up metal slugs on the bottom of my shoes. I feel right at home."
And he feels comfortable with his colleagues, as well. Recently, he put together a full-day seminar with account managers from the commercial and federal sectors of the company, so everybody "would understand how outsourcing will benefit us all," said CSC spokesman James Sullivan.
So, it is no surprise that he treats the IRS as a serious customer. The IRS contract is the largest CSC holds. And the success or failure of the IRS contract will have an enormous effect on the com.pany. So far, CSC has delivered a series of initiatives on time and is completing new ones on schedule.
"We are starting to see deliverables that will make a difference to the taxpayer," Cofoni said.
Among them are much better automated contacts between the IRS and the taxpayer and the delivery of new functions to help the IRS become more customer-friendly.
In December, the company plans to launch the Customer Account Data Engine (CADE), replacing the tax agency's ancient tape-based records system with a state-of-the-art computerized data bank. The aging system is so unsophisticated that a tax.payer's file can only be accessed once every week, depending on where the person's last name is in the alphabet.
Like so many other top executives, Cofoni got his start in the military. But he also has a 17-year career with General Dynamics Corp. under his belt. There, he served in various positions, including vice president of information technology services.
His climb to success started in much more modest circumstances. The son of a rural postman, Cofoni often accompanied his father delivering mail in northwest Rhode Island. His grandfather was a postman, too, in a small town in Italy where a street is named Cofoni.
His 80-year-old father, Syl, who still lives in Rhode Island, recalled that his son was "very resourceful. He always took advantage of whatever he saw. He wanted to be a good athlete. He wasn't gifted as an athlete. He's gifted with his mind."
Cofoni calls himself a "Type A, classic overachiever," but you would never know that from his gentle manner or easy smile. But his favorite books tell a lot about his style. They include "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" by Roger Fisher and William Ury, and "The Sayings of Shigeo Shingo: Key Strategies for Plant Improvement."
There is always room for improvement, but business for CSC has been healthy. On Nov. 1, the company reported strong second-quarter growth, especially in the federal sector that Cofoni now leads. Revenue derived from the company's federal government activities rose 6.4 percent from the second quarter of 2000 to $660.6 million, with Defense Department contracts leading the way.
But now, Cofoni faces his toughest task. With much uncertainty in the wake of the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, CSC is working to keep focused and deliver its services to both civilian and military agencies, he said.
The Paul Cofoni file
Current job: President of Computer Sciences Corp.'s Federal Sector.
Background: He previously was president of CSC's Technology Management Group. Before joining CSC, he worked for General Dynamics Corp. from 1974 to 1991. He was vice president of information technology services for General Dynamics' East Coast and West Coast operations. He also was an officer in the U.S. Army, from 1970 to 1974.
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the University of Rhode Island. Attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management program for senior executives.
Family: He and his wife Karen were high school sweethearts and have been married for more than 30 years. They have two children — Marika, 29, an elementary school teacher, and Christopher, 25, a classical vocalist — and three granddaughters.
Favorite book: "Profiles in Courage" by John F. Kennedy.
Quote: "I've always been in the field. I feel comfortable picking up metal slugs on the bottom of my shoes. I feel right at home."
"We are reaching out to make sure clients in the near term are more prepared to defend against attacks," Cofoni said. "We're prepared to deal with increased demand."