Ted Davies serves as corporate senior vice president and president of Unisys‘ federal systems unit, which delivers security, data center, end user and application support services to the federal government.
Davies recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about how Unisys narrowed its focus to pursue areas of growth in its core competency areas, his involvement with American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council and the evolution of government contracting.
ExecutiveBiz: You’ve held your current position since 2008. How has the strategy you use to approach business success and contract wins evolved over the years based on your experiences?
Ted Davies: Our strategy has evolved as a result of what I’ve learned in this job over the last few years, but a lot of that evolution has also been the result of an adaptation to the market. The overall economic downturn, changes in federal spending and the government environment have led to a number of changes.
The first major change was as the result of our CEO, Ed Coleman, who started in 2008. Under his leadership, we’ve been able to break down the barriers between the business units within Unisys and get much better reach back to other parts of the company. As a global IT solutions provider, we’re able to draw from things we do for commercial clients and other governments around the world. We’ve adapted our strategy to import more innovations and resources from other parts of Unisys, and we also share federal solutions with the rest of the company.
Then about a year and a half ago, we centralized our federal sales organization. We did this to allow for better prioritization of our bids across the enterprise and to ensure we had our best resources on our best deals. When I first took the job in Fall 2008, we had sales spread out across the organization in the account teams. We decided to put sales together in one place, and we hired a new leader, Elizabeth Smith. She’s built a sales team that works with our account leadership and our portfolio teams to drive new solutions into the marketplace. That was one big adaptation driven by the marketplace.
Beyond that, we continue to focus hard on our key accounts, our core competencies and the things we do really well to stay ahead of the marketplace.
ExecutiveBiz: What is your involvement with ACT/IAC and how does that experience complement or aid you in your role at Unisys?
Ted Davies: ACT-IAC is a not-for-profit public/private partnership that’s dedicated to improving the government through application of IT. It’s government and industry coming together in a nonpartisan way to improve the way things work. It’s been around for about 30 years now. There are 550 member companies in ACT-IAC today.
This year, ACT-IAC formed an Executive Leadership Committee. They’ve picked a number of key CIOs and a number of industry leaders, like myself, to sit on the Executive Leadership Committee and provide some perspective on how the organization should evolve to address the government’s future needs. I’ve been involved since last fall, which has allowed me to meet new people, stay in front of trends and help come up with newer methods to solve old problems.
I was also asked to co-chair their yearly Executive Leadership Conference with General Services Administration CIO Casey Coleman. Nine hundred people gather every fall in Williamsburg, 600 from industry and 300 from government, to talk about the latest trends and how we can move the ball forward. I’ve been very involved, and it’s put me in touch with some new people and allowed me to help shape the dialogue.
ExecutiveBiz: What are Unisys’ proven strengths and why are they the company’s strong suit – and how the company will expand on that solution success?
Ted Davies: As a global mission critical IT solutions provider, we do a lot of different work for clients all over the world. When Ed Coleman got here, we started to look at what the company was really good at. We narrowed it down to four areas of strength.
The first one is around data center transformation and outsourcing. We have a heritage in providing secure, reliable, scalable mainframe computers that we operate for government agencies and commercial organizations around the world. Today, client organizations outsource their operations to us, and we in turn help with the transformation of data centers and moving to the cloud. We have a secure private cloud solution that we brought to market that allows organizations that don’t want to go to the public cloud to be more efficient in the way they run their data centers.
The second area of strength is end user outsourcing and support. This includes everything from the help desk to the desktop and to the mobile device. We’ve got some unique solutions there that we take to market. We’re a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for North American help desk services, which provides an external validation of our capabilities.
The third area of strength is application modernization and outsourcing services. That’s where we help organizations run their basic applications to keep operations moving, while maintaining legacy applications and helping them transition onto new platforms. In 2010, we opened a center in St. Louis targeted at these services for public sector clients.
The fourth area is security. We provide cybersecurity solutions, assessments and repair, as well as physical security solutions such as border security and perimeter security. We provide identity solutions as well and have excellent capabilities in biometrics. We apply all of those elements to help organizations secure their people, assets and technology.
ExecutiveBiz: The company serves the DHS, DoD, Justice, HHS, GSA, among others and has biometrics and security research. What are the challenges/benefits of having such depth?
Ted Davies: Narrowing our focus to those four areas of strength a few years ago has bounded our investments. As an example, biometrics falls under the area of security. We feel our clients have a growing need in this area and we’ve got a deep competency, so we will continue to invest there. It’s definitely a growth area for Unisys.
We publish the Unisys Security Index twice a year, which is based on surveys of thousands of people around the world, and what their security concerns are. By collecting information on the security concerns of consumers, we can advise our government clients on the concerns of their constituents. For example, we’ve found that people are concerned about identity theft, so the ability for citizen-facing government agencies to begin to protect people’s identities through biometrics might be acceptable.
We do work for government organizations around the world in multimodal biometrics, which is the ability to collect and analyze information in lots of different ways. You can use facial recognition, iris scans, voice, veins patterns, fingerprints and DNA. Unisys has solutions in all those areas, and we have ways to integrate those with client systems.
The challenge is making sure we stay focused on the things that we do really well and continue to get deeper and bring new solutions to market. We’re not wedded to one technology. We consider ourselves technology independent, which means that we draw from the best solutions the market has to offer to meet each individual client’s needs.
ExecutiveBiz: What are the disruptive IT trends the government is facing and how can contracting firms play a role despite budget restraints?
Ted Davies: There are a number of these overarching trends. One of course, is the move to the cloud. Everybody talks about the cloud, but we’re making it work. One of the areas where we’ve been at the forefront has been around collaboration and e-mail. We moved the General Service Administration’s entire enterprise to the Google Apps for Government platform in five months and saved GSA half of what they spent in prior years.
That’s an example of how you can take a complicated, costly investment and transform it very quickly and cost effectively. Cloud is here and happening for different government agencies with collaboration and e-mail. It’s also happening as organizations implement private clouds in their data centers. We help organizations rationalize that and bring new solutions to market. There exists today, big opportunities to make cloud real.
The second thing I would talk about is mobility, which is transforming everything. People are bringing their own mobile devices to work. Virtually every organization is trying to learn how to deal with managing all of these devices, whether they are provided by the organization or belong to employees. How do you manage and secure that? How do you deal with moving applications that used to be run on big computers or on desktops or laptops, and how do you mobilize those so that you can get the efficiencies from your workforce? To address this trend, our application modernization center of excellence in St. Louis is at the forefront of helping organizations deal with how to provide mission applications on a wide range of mobile devices.
It’s a very exciting but challenging time in our industry. IT budgets are going to continue to go down. Anybody in industry that is trying to take a solution to market that’s going to require the government to spend more is not going to be successful. It’s all about efficiency and effectiveness of government. Those that can bring that to market are going to be successful, and those that can’t are going to have a tough ride for the next few years. Unisys is positioned to bring cost effective solutions to market that will help the government operate more efficiently and more effectively.