Robin Lineberger: All about the co-opetition

Lineberger is credited with bringing an almost Silicon Valley-like environment to Deloitte's innovation center.

Robin Lineberger

Robin Lineberger of Deloitte (Photo by Zaid Hamid)

Robin Lineberger has been many things in his career: Air Force officer, BearingPoint executive, CEO of Deloitte Federal Government Services, board member of multiple industry associations, and now senior advisor to Deloitte's aerospace and defense group. Through it all, however, he has always been a people person.

Not in the sense of being amiable and well-liked by his peers -- though he is that, too -- but rather in his belief that cultivating talent and fostering collaboration are the cornerstones of any enterprise's success. "It's going to start and end with human capital," Lineberger told FCW. "People with talent have options. ... This industry needs to track and retain the best talent that we can get."

So when Lineberger and his peers on the Professional Services Council’s Leadership Commission found themselves discussing the changing landscape of federal acquisition, they quickly realized that a broader conversation was needed.

"There was something going on in the marketplace that ... we felt could have mid- and long-term damage to the professional services industrial complex," he explained, "and to the level of service that was ultimately going to be provided to the federal government. "So we decided that we should step back, rather than whining about it ... and try to look at the root causes."

The resulting report, “From Crisis to Opportunity: Creating a New Era of Government Efficiency,” resonated with industry and agency executives alike, and the research that went into it sparked some much-needed exchanges between the many stakeholders.

"The report contributed to a discussion about how technologies like software as a service and infrastructure as a service are transforming technology," said Trey Hodgkins, the longtime TechAmerica executive who is now a senior vice president with the Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector. "It helps make sure government is in the swim lanes when it comes to the cloud."

None of that would have happened, Lineberger said, if he and his colleagues had not focused on government's needs as well as their own. "We took great care to engage the CIO community, the acquisition community," he said. "And when we began to engage with the government ... they were having the same challenges."

That focus on conversations and common interests seems to come naturally to Lineberger, who is credited with bringing an almost Silicon Valley-like environment to Deloitte's innovation center. In his new role -- the August 2013 shift from CEO to senior advisor was part of a long-planned succession strategy -- he's using that perspective to help the firm find new ways of working with its aerospace customers. "Before, I was administering and creating the channels that allowed us to bring our capability into the government," he explained. "Now, I find it really refreshing and reinvigorating to get out and work directly with these executives -- because I've faced many of the same challenges that they're facing."

And in the broader market, that ability to embrace what he calls "co-opetition" makes Lineberger a sought-after leader on any number of projects. So when TechAmerica Public Sector needed a new board chairman in early 2013, Lineberger was an obvious pick to step into the role. The group was at an inflection point in terms of both strategy and finances, and not long thereafter lost Hodgkins and his team to ITAP. But Lineberger leaned into the challenge of reshaping the organization, recruiting new talent and "bringing in some different kinds of firms that represent the technologies of the future."

"I think the yellow light stopped flashing," he said. "The gaps are filled. The strategy is set. Now we just need to demonstrate to the community that these new assets can actually execute."

And Lineberger is even more optimistic about the market as a whole, despite the prospect of tight agency budgets for the foreseeable future.

"The client [still] has got to figure out how to do what they do more efficiently and effectively, and try to drive costs out while the demand is getting bigger," he said. "Those fundamental market issues are going to drive demand."

And however much the acquisition landscape might change, Lineberger predicted that the real innovations will come from firms that think outside the process. "Those that are going to be successful aren't going to wait for an RFP," he said. "They're going to come to the client with ideas about how they're going to drive positive change."

"Those people can win over the next several years."

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