George Verdon serves as Teradata’s director of partner management where he works to bridge the federal government’s needs with Teradata’s technology capabilities.
The 20-year industry veteran worked for Xelus Software Division prior to joining Teradata in 2004 and previous held leadership roles at General Electric and Lockheed Martin.
In his Q&A with ExecutiveBiz, Verdon discusses a centralized approach to managing data, what’s next in government procurement and the responsibility he feels to the American people as a government contractor.
Executive Biz: Could you talk a little bit about Teradata and your role at the firm?
George Verdon: Teradata is the leading provider of analytic data platforms, applications, and services. I’m really seeking out business leaders who are looking for smarter, faster, more informed answers to some of their most central business questions. Teradata advocates a single integrated view of your data. We utilize visionary people, unique technologies, and professional services, to overcome some of the toughest data challenges in the marketplace today.
I’m personally responsible for our partnerships across the federal government, within the federal government sphere; Teradata often sells through solution integrators. As you know, the government tends to procure larger contracts, where warehousing/analytics is only a piece of the overall delivery. So it’s very important that our partners are educated and understand our differentiation and capabilities. My primary responsibility is educating the SI community and going after opportunities in partnership with them.
Executive Biz: What do you think are some of the biggest data challenges facing government right now?
George Verdon: One of the primary challenges is data ownership. Today much of the data is silo’d and our challenge is convincing our clients of the value of integrating this data and cost savings associated with this effort. And if you look commercially, the top performing companies are leveraging “integrated data” and the associated analytic advantages to lead their respective industries– many of these top performers are Teradata customers. These companies view their data as a strategic asset and invest accordingly. We are starting to see more of this thinking in the Government space and many of our recent new contracts in Government reflect this change in direction and culture.
As we always say, source the data once, and use it many times. You get great value and great return on investment. We’re encouraged to see many of our government clients advocating a more centralized approach to managing their data. You could argue this is being partly driven by constrained budgets, but we are excited by the business value they are seeing out of these efforts. We feel it validates our message and is driving our growth in this space. Seeing our client base evolve from a basic reporting infrastructure towards more high-end analytics is really where people can deliver on their mission.
Executive Biz: So in the vein of learning more about Teradata as a company, I was wondering about the different technology abilities of the company products and services that your company offers?
George Verdon: If you look at Teradata, you are basically looking at three areas of focus: products, applications and services. We are clearly well known for our data warehouse platforms that allow for any price point entry and are built and configured to meet the client’s needs. These include our enterprise class platforms, appliances and even discovery platforms – the gamut if you will. Teradata has strategically invested in the application space over the last 3 – 5 years. We have accomplished this through acquisitions as well as building our own assets that are complimentary and strategically aligned with our core data warehousing capabilities. In addition, Teradata has a very robust consulting service, which is another area where we’ve seen significant growth and consider these services key to our continued success.
Executive Biz: How are you trying to grow the company – do you have a growth plan to create a bigger footprint in the federal market?
George Verdon: Yes, there are unique and strategic investments we are making in the government space in both people and assets. The Corporation is looking at us as one of the main growth areas and is investing accordingly. The obvious is staying ahead of the competition in terms of technology and our continued ability to differentiate ourselves. As I mentioned earlier, we continue to build out our portfolio of offerings in all three of our areas of focus; addressing our clients’ need for flexibility in the areas of price and capability.
When we look at challenges the government has as it relates to current funding levels, we need to provide the most costeffective platform that can still deliver on their mission. It’s no longer ok to be the best you have to be able to operate within their budget constraints without sacrificing capabilities.
Executive Biz: In that position you’re probably looking at where government is going next with procurement of technology. Could you give our readers any clue on what should be focused on coming up whether it be big data, cloud, etc?
George Verdon: We’re still seeing a worldwide increase of IT spending of probably an extra 4 to 5 % over last year. And almost 6 million jobs are being created in the analytical space alone. I think a lot of this growth, including growth in the US government, is being driven by the fact that people are looking and viewing their data as one of their most valuable assets.
I believe the cloud is here to stay and provides some significant cost flexibility for Government entities; and Teradata has invested in solutions for this space. The big data space is an interesting area, as you know big data is not new, it’s been around awhile, and Teradata has commercial and government clients who have been utilizing big data quite some time. The cost of storage and IO has gone down significantly in the last five years allowing for a cost-effective approach to take advantage of semi-structured and unstructured data. The challenge is finding the right business problem to solve with a big data solution in a cost-effective manner.
There are a lot of entities across government who are dipping their toes in the water so to speak; spending time to understand the technology and the challenges it can bring to their organizations. I personally see them as being very early on the adoption curve as a whole but there are some agencies that have embarked on what I would call significant big data projects. There is still tremendous value that needs to be reaped from their existing investments from an analytic standpoint, but that being said, a sensible business value driven approach to adding a big data element to their analytic ecosystem makes sense. The key to success is ensuring that any big data environment is built as an integrated asset with the rest of your infrastructure and not another stand-alone silo of information.
Executive Biz: Do you feel like you are serving the American people as a contractor and do you feel like you have responsibility to them in that role?
George Verdon: I would say not only me, but Teradata as a corporation and our employees take great pride in our clients and great pride in what we deliver. I think I’ve seen numbers where our customer satisfaction rating is 95+ % in our installed base. These customers are willing to stand up and talk about the value they have gotten out of their partnerships with Teradata. So I think that’s a huge testament to both our sales and delivery people, not just in the US government, but globally.
Like most organizations in this space, we hire a lot of retired government people who you can imagine take great pride in what we deliver to the marketplace. I have spent a large part of my career selling into the Federal Government space and early in my career I also worked for Lockheed Martin. My father served 20 years in the Navy so I take a lot of pride in what we do for our Government and I can assure you my peers do also.
Executive Biz: You worked for General Electric Aerospace and Lockheed in a variety of roles. Are there any lessons that you’ve learned working for those very big companies that you currently employ in your job at Teradata?
George Verdon: My role is to educate and position Teradata within the integrator community; having spent 10 years working for them gives me a unique perspective as to how they view the world. I understand their business and how they view their clients and partners. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have had experience working in engineering, operations, supply chain, and finance. I was able to leverage that experience to move into selling enterprise applications into a variety of verticals including Telco, Manufacturing, Government, and Health. The experience of being and end user early in my career, coupled with my experience selling, gives me a lot of depth when talking to prospective partners as well as clients.
Executive Biz: It sounds like you’ve served in a lot of different parts of the marketplace. So going forward in 2013, what are you most excited about for both yourself and your company?
George Verdon: I’m most excited that even in all this downturn, we are still seeing an uptick in analytic spending in the marketplace. I think it’s driven by trying to do more with less. So if I’m going to do more with less, I need more business insights. I need much more weight behind my decisionmaking and that requires data. And really what we’re advocating is you don’t really need to spend more money on applications if you are not taking advantage of the data you have today.
To start, determine what questions do you want answered, then work back and figure out what data we need to answer those questions. We advise our clients to look at it from the business need point of view and then we help them work back to define technology and data assets that are needed. We have seen a lot of activity, as much activity in the last 12 months as I have in the last 4 years with the federal government. Yes, there are funding challenges, but there are still many people out there looking to deliver on their missions. Helping them to find the most effective approach that fits into their budget constraints is the challenge but we love to have those kind of conversations.
Executive Biz: Can you talk about your company’s work with big data?
George Verdon: The agencies need to be focused on the business benefits of bringing semi-structured and unstructured data in. I think sometimes we get so lost worrying about the technology, that we lose sight of the business reason of why we’re going down this path and spending all this time and money. Most people today equate big data with Hadoop but in actuality Hadoop is one of several technologies that are going to be required to have a successful implementation.
Enterprises are going to want to balance investment decisions with potential business value. The big data market is going to require an integration of multiple technologies to be successful. Teradata has built and deployed a unified data architecture that we believe is best in class giving our customers the flexibility to leverage a very powerful cost effective integrated solution. The focus of the big data solution needs to be about the analytic value, otherwise why incur the cost of sourcing the data into your ecosystem? The IT challenge that we help customers solve is combining the big data solution with their traditional relational database analytic environments that exist throughout the enterprise. The big data solution needs to compliment your existing infrastructure and be able to scale as you grow. So if I had one last thing to say I would say focus on the business value first and then figure out what the right technology set is. Don’t take a technology like big data and try to apply it to something that it’s just not meant to solve.