Catching up with ENSCO’s Alan Bell

Alan Bell of ENSCO
Alan Bell of ENSCO

ENSCO’s been called one of the best kept secrets in town, and Alan Bell is set to change that. As COO of the Falls Church, Va.-based company — its focus is on engineering, science and advanced technology solutions for the defense, security, transportation, environment, and aerospace industries — Bell has his eye on doubling ENSCO‘s growth over the next few years. Here Bell shares the latest with ENSCO’s core areas of focus: national security,  transportation, and aerospace. Plus, he weighs in on the stimulus package, and ENSCO’s move into new areas: sustainable energy, infrastructure renewal, and health care.

EB: National security is a key focus for ENSCO. What’s the latest on that front?

Alan Bell: Our focus is in the area of protecting our country from weapons of mass destruction, both in terms of technical services and research and development. We are doing work with the DHS, for example, primarily the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. With our SENTRY system, we also provide a sensor integration capability, taking inputs from chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological sensors and combining that information to provide actionable information for first responders.

EB: What’s ENSCO’S focus on the transportation side?

Alan Bell: Research and development into railroad safety. We provide sensor systems that assess the condition of railroad tracks. We do this for both class one railroads, as well as transit and commuter rail systems. We provide instrumentation systems for rail cars to see how they’re actually interacting with the track systems they’re running on. That’s actually a growth industry for us right now.

EB: And aerospace?

Alan Bell: We build and test software for flight critical avionics systems. We do this for a number of the avionics system providers both commercially and for federal projects. In addition to that we provide missile range and space launch safety systems focused on both weather operations, for example, at NASA and also simulation and training systems in various military spaces.

EB: How do you see the stimulus package affecting ENSCO’S overall strategy?

Alan Bell: We’re pretty excited about it from the transportation point of view, especially. There is stimulus in there for the high speed rail; meanwhile, we’re one of the only companies in the US that manufactures high speed track inspection equipment. I think the amount that is put in there will help initiate high speed rail activities.

EB: Beyond your core strengths, what else will ENSCO focus on going forward?

Alan Bell: While I want us to keep to our key areas of focus — national security, transportation, and aerospace — we are also looking to address new problems in areas of national importance. Sustainable energy is one area. Infrastructure renewal is another. Climate change is also an area that we’re interested in, wind and solar energy technologies in particular. In healthcare, we’ve been pursuing data mining and text analytics to provide better quality control to hospital systems and reduce Medicare fraud.

EB: Speaking of healthcare: The stimulus package has roughly $20 billion earmarked for it. What’s your approach to contributing to healthcare?

Alan Bell: We’ve been taking a multi-pronged approach. We’ve actually been looking at it from the standpoint of going after large hospital systems. They’re the ones that are actually purchasing and putting the information technology systems in place. We’re looking at both the systems themselves and the major providers to those systems. We’ve also been looking at the federal government because right now, for example, the VA is the leader in healthcare information automation.

EB: What publications do you routinely read to stay atop trends in national security, aerospace, and transportation?

Alan Bell: I follow the trade publications in these areas, of course, but I find the most useful information in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and MIT’s Technology Review.

EB: What are you reading right now? What book would you recommend other COOs read to stay on top of their game?

Alan Bell: I’ve just finished People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I read for relaxation, and I generally don’t read business-oriented books to relax. However, I’ve recently read a great business book, Idealized Design: How to Dissolve Tomorrow’s Crisis…Today, by Russell L. Ackoff, Jason Magidson, and Herbert J. Addison. I would recommend it to any executive who is attempting to tackle the problem of organizational transition and moving their company to the next level.

EB: What would you like to see ENSCO accomplish next?

Alan Bell: My personal goal is to see us double in size over the next few years. I think we’ve put the foundation in place for this to happen and I’m confident that we will.

EB: If you could have been anything besides COO of ENSCO what would it be?

Alan Bell: I like to build things. When I was I college, I toyed with becoming an architect, but physics was my thing, so I followed the progression of moving from technical work to management to where I am now.

EB: What’s something people don’t know about you personally?

Alan Bell: I love fast cars. I’m going to get a Tesla one of these days.

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