Bill Sullivan leads Informatica‘s public sector business in North America as vice president and general manager.
Sullivan’s more than two-decade career includes stops at Lockheed Martin, where he led that company’s Savi Technology business, and a VP and GM role for North American state and local markets at PeopleSoft, which was acquired by Oracle.
In this conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Sullivan discusses the role he believes cloud computing technologies can have at agencies in storage and how industry works with customers on data center consolidation. He also overviews his experience at PeopleSoft and experiences he draws on now.
ExecutiveBiz: Which areas have you focused on since you started your current role?
Bill Sullivan: The Informatica public sector role was vacant 14 months when I joined, and the group had been run as two discrete lines of business. Initially I focused on getting Informatica to execute in a balanced fashion on across both civilian and DoD sectors, and between state, local and federal markets.
Given its existing footprint and industry relationships, Informatica was underperforming in the public sector, so the first two years were spent building discreet teams within the group that are requisite for success including marketing, alliances, direct sales, inside sales and our consulting organization, the latter of which was already very strong when I arrived.
Concurrent with building out the organization we worked to align Informatica solutions to industry trends, and finally began raising awareness in the SI community.
While ongoing support of senior management and the board has been contributory to our success, I’ve also been fortunate to retain most senior public sector staff some of whom have been with the company over 14 years. Additionally, we’ve added some outstanding leaders I have worked with in the past like our Chief Strategist Kimberley Williams (PeopleSoft), and our DOD/IC Director, Ken Mellett (Oracle/BMC).
Technically over the last four years we’ve maintained Informatica’s strength integrating disparate data from heterogeneous systems, applications, data types and platforms. The more complex the environment, the greater a need for Informatica technology becomes apparent. With our public sector’s heterogeneous environment, and demands for a comprehensive data strategy, our technology alignment to the market will remain strong.
ExecutiveBiz: What is the most disruptive trend that you’ve seen during your career?
Bill Sullivan: “Disruptive” is an interesting if misleading term. Technology marketers enjoy using disruption in a positive sense, but disruption has rarely been positive. Many analysts or marketers will argue for cloud or software as a service as ”disruptors”, yet these — like transitions going back to moving mainframes to client-server, Y2K remediation, or client server to the Internet — are simply technology iterations industry must understand and position in a fashion valuable to government.
While I understand technologies underpinning “the Internet of Things” are compressing Moore’s Law, and further recognize the massive cost savings potential with the cloud, nobody was arguing the world might shut down on January 1, 2000. That would have been a disruption, but we got through it and we’ll all get to the cloud as well once we build enough data centers. We know how to do that having done so in the 1980-90’s.
Currently there are two unique, highly disruptive trends impacting the public sector market – neither of which is beneficial. First, the budget process executed by the federal government over the last few years is unlike that seen in my career, and has been tremendously disruptive from a non-technical perspective. Agency executives have been forced to design plans often without assurances of budgetary support, and often with a record decline in net spending.
This challenges government to function consistently by generating high rates of burn out, turn over and job dissatisfaction within the federal work force. The subsequent impacts on agency technology operations, technology adoption and on the federal vendor community is a lagging indicator of budgetary disruption.
The second disruption is IT security where threats multiply every day, and touch on every facet of agency operations. The IT industry constantly plays catch-up to ensure underlying data is secure as traditional means of access and identification become overwhelmed. This forces government and technology leaders to cooperate on IT security, otherwise every other operational consideration becomes academic.
We are gaining ground on securing data at the source, but this issue will remain the most disruptive trend in the foreseeable future as it sits at a nexus between the commercial market and public sector representing an existential threat to both.
Informatica’s value proposition includes long relationships based on prior success with government that afford trust in our company; a range of leading technologies which identify, manage, mask and govern data; and ongoing relationships with both technology companies and systems integration firms that our customers use to establish a data management platform.
Increasingly this platform approach is being adopted to not only provide security and governance of data, but also — particularly in state and local government human services — to address waste, fraud and abuse. This increasing focus on fraud is another sign of the disruptive impact offered by compromised IT security.
ExecutiveBiz: What role can cloud technologies play in storage and archiving?
Bill Sullivan: Given the vast amounts of data government generates and is statutorily required to maintain, for cost savings and business execution the cloud represents a tremendous opportunity for efficiency gains. The use of analytics on their data can help agencies better design programs, and execute their core missions on a more cost effective basis.
Although Informatica has a commercial cloud offering with over 2,500 customers, in the federal market we partner with many of the large cloud providers to help customers “get to the cloud,” manage hybrid implementations on premise and in the cloud, all while integrating and securing their data regardless of location. This approach affords us a vantage point to better support our customers as they work to manage costs around storage and archiving by using the cloud.
The first step for industry is to educate the government customer on what is possible and how to procure it. Two of our cloud partners have teams dedicated to helping customers understand the technology and its deployment as well as the correct way to write an RFI that will grant agencies the correct solution for their requirements.
Fortunately cost savings on the order of 70-90% can be expected by agencies choosing to move data to the cloud store it there and/or archive old data. The greatest challenge to attaining the 70-90% cost benefit is understanding a) what to buy, and b) the acquisition process necessary to buy it. Although cloud adoption had a slow start, the promise is there and I believe it will accelerate through 2015.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you see industry as helping federal agencies meet some of their data center consolidation goals?
Bill Sullivan: The discussion around benefits of data center consolidation is challenging since cost accounting in the public sector is both an art and science. One value proposition technology companies can offer is to identify the addressable costs in DCC. Because many data centers are owned by GSA or another entity consolidation from five buildings down to two may not impact an agency’s M&O budget.
The true cost savings from consolidation is achieved when archiving old data so that there is no need to support it online; retiring old applications and their maintenance stream; moving data to the cloud; and transitioning operations to a more efficient platform. Some of our customers are executing all four initiatives simultaneously with INFA in the middle managing the data.
Informatica works with our customers to set up “Application Retirement Competency Centers” used for retiring old apps while transitioning data to more efficient platforms, archiving it, or going to the cloud. At one agency we moved 40 years of citizen data from mainframes to a modern RDBMS.
Additionally we see the growth of “Integration Competency Centers” both within agencies and as a service by our SI partners being used to consolidate old applications or databases on to a more efficient architecture. Both of these approaches are valuable to customers as they directly impact an agency’s M&O budget while improving operations.
The second path for technology executives to assist agencies with DCC is by articulating the benefits of various technologies on the business: Not just on cost savings within IT. Accurate analytics, underwritten by all data under management within an agency heightens the CIO’s role by allowing non-technical, senior executives to run their agency more effectively. DCC is a means to achieving that end, bringing coherence to a technology strategy that may have grown unmanageable over time.
We advise customers to view DCC as analogous to moving to enterprise resource planning for data. Just as you won’t have control over the business without integrating business functions, you won’t make good decisions without access to, and control over, all your data. The adoption of an INFA enterprise data management platform allows better decisions by managing data from generation to retirement.
When making business decisions on their data customers need to recognize if they don’t have control of all their data, it is akin to a “network down” situation as it is impossible to make informed decisions.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some experiences from PeopleSoft and Oracle that you draw on the most now?
Bill Sullivan: Every day I draw on experiences from PeopleSoft where I ran NA state and local government, and Oracle where following the acquisition, I ran North American public sector applications. Like Informatica both companies possess industry leading technologies, visionary CEO’s, a passionate work ethic and a deep commitment to customer success. Admittedly, I miss the culture of PeopleSoft, and remain in contact with many of my PeopleSoft co-workers.
From an execution perspective, ERP placed the sales and consulting teams in daily contact with non-technical business executives. This drove a requirement for an organic understanding of the business that eludes most technology companies. After hitting $1B this year, INFA’s goal is to achieve $3 billion in revenues. To achieve this target a continued verticalization of our company — in which we better understand, support and integrate with our customer’s business — will be critical. Because of my experiences at PeopleSoft and Oracle, I understand how that growth plays out, and how to nurture it.
In addition to sales and technical pre-Sales, we will continue to hire specialists in various areas of government that ensure the solutions INFA brings to our customers and partners offer the best value to meet an ever changing set of public sector challenges. Our consulting team will also grow, but our charter is the successful implementation and operation of our software. We will continue to offer our SI partners a fixed price deliverable option for inclusion in their bids to ensure competitiveness and value.
From a management perspective, although it has changed a bit lately Informatica is the closest environment I have seen to the PeopleSoft culture. If most technology is similar to dating a customer, ERP is marriage. That fosters an entirely different organizational dynamic. At INFA I am privileged to work with our CEO Sohaib Abassi, and one of the benefits he grants me by leading an organization in a unique market, 2500 miles from headquarters, is to create a culture which instills the positive outlook we enjoyed at PeopleSoft.
While we’ve not achieved ERP-level customer intimacy yet, the quality of our technology, its relevance to the public sector and our focus on the customer has allowed INFA to attract and retain wonderful people in our group. Recognizing the underlying technology will always change makes finding, attracting and retaining good people critical to long term success. It is to the team I owe our success, and it’s a team which has almost tripled in four years.
ExecutiveBiz: Any final thoughts on the public sector market’s current picture?
Bill Sullivan: It is an exciting time in the public sector space across all areas. If you have been doing this long enough, you’ve seen everything from O/S 360 to sequestration. There have been good and bad times. It is the technology executives’ obligation to work with their government peers to ensure a complete understanding of the value we offer. Informatica is particularly well-positioned to deliver enhanced value to the government customer, and we look forward to a long and successful relationship with the public sector.