It’s been less than a year since John Edwards was appointed president of Agilex Technologies‘ intelligence, security and defense sectors. In that time, Edwards has helped steer the Herndon, Va.-based IT solutions provider toward greater focus in those areas. Here Edwards discusses which IT services are resonating the most with his federal customers — information management is a prime focus — and how he effectively gauges his customers’ “pain points.”
EB: Why did you choose to come to Agilex?
John Edwards: A couple of reasons. I was impressed with the leadership of the company and the expertise of its people. It also boiled down to the opportunity and the challenge of a new start-up company. I had been at my other company [Blackbird Technologies] for five years, and was ready take on a new challenge.
EB: What areas of service are resonating the most with your customers?
John Edwards: We focus on helping customers get more value from information while reducing the cost to manage it. The challenge of information management is growing for everyone; we’re extremely well-positioned. For example, our CTO Tim Hoechst was previously the chief technology executive for Oracle in the public sector and no one is better at managing Oracle systems. Another key member of the team is Bob Otto, the former CIO and CTO at the U.S. Postal Service. Bob is fantastic at negotiating licenses and streamlining IT operations.
EB: What’s the biggest problem we’re seeing in cybersecurity?
John Edwards: Obviously, the hard problem is protecting information — especially within the intelligence community — while increasing information sharing. For example, threat information has got to be pushed out to federal, state, and local levels. This increased access and connectivity introduces whole new layers of security and risk, but the bottom line is you have to get critical information out to the folks on the front line at the “speed of warning.”
EB: What do you foresee will come out of Melissa Hathaway’s 60-day review?
John Edwards: The cyber security conversation has tended to focus more on the government solving the problem when the majority of our nation’s critical infrastructure is owned and controlled by the private sector. At the end of the day the solution is going to have factor in a partnership with the private sector as well. It will be interesting to see the balance that comes out of this report. For it to work, everybody is going to have to own it.
EB: How great do you see the cybersecurity threat?
John Edwards: Well, new pieces of malware are created and introduced into the internet every 5 to 15 seconds and more frequently than not bypassing known current detection and defenses. That should scare the heck out of everybody. It’s not a matter of “if” you get attacked, it’s a matter of “when.” Our new partnership with HBGary, a company that provides computer memory forensics, incident response and automated large-scale malware analysis, speaks from the standpoint of “when” you’ll get attacked. We see our products as the last line of defense.
EB: What’s next in your merger and acquisition strategy?
John Edwards: We meet every Friday morning to talk about the status of our current merger and acquisition activities. We’re looking at companies that are small but offer unique and/or complimentary capabilities. Generally these companies don’t fall on anyone else’s radar screen because they’re too small for the big guys to pursue; however for us, they are just the right size. We look at potential merger opportunities from a standpoint of, “Hey, come join us, let’s do this together.” Using that as our model, we’ve got a nice little list that we’re working through.
EB: What are some of your other recent acquisitions?
John Edwards: Last July, we acquired a software company, DHSoft, which brought instant Microsoft .net, SQL server, and SharePoint technologies experience and expertise. They were also a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, so getting them brought a whole new business offering into the company.
EB: What questions help you discover your customers ‘pain points’?
John Edwards: We listen to our customers. We don’t just have big hammers out there looking for nails. We stay on top of their problems and we ask questions like, “What’s keeping you up at night?” “What are your gaps?” and “What can’t you do?” At the same time we try to stay on top of current and advanced technologies with a focus on applying them to solve our customer’s challenges.”
EB: What’s your biggest challenge in business?
John Edwards: Recruiting at the speed of need. The biggest challenge in the intelligence, defense, and security space is finding the right people, with the right clearances. It’s a zero sum game out there – everyone is competing for the same kind of personnel.
EB: What’s something most people don’t know about you personally?
John Edwards: I’m a big guy who loves snowboarding. I’ve been snowboarding for 15 years. I don’t think a lot of people would look at me and say, “Now that’s a snowboarder!” They would be more likely to say, “If he’s behind me, I want to get out of the way!” All kidding aside, I absolutely love it and I’ve gotten my whole family into it … my wife and our four kids.
Interview conducted by JD Kathuria
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