Bob Dunn is the Senior Vice President of Business Development at Ericsson Federal. We had the chance to chat with him about what emerging trends he sees for Ericsson Federal in 2010 and how they will continue to be a leader in mobile broadband solutions. We also learned about Dunn’s favorite part of his job, as well as some of his favorite things to do with his two sons, Bobby and Jack.
ExecutiveBiz: Tell us about your role at Ericsson Federal (EFI) and how you got to where you are.
Dunn: I lead EFI’s business development team in its work with government agencies. We leverage the world-class broadband solutions of Ericsson, our parent company, to address the government’s mission and enterprise communications requirements.
My history in the communications industry started about 24 years ago with a company up in New York called NYNEX, one of the Bell operating companies. I then went between Northern Telecom (Nortel) and Bell Atlantic a couple of times, focused on communications, before I returned to Nortel, joining Nortel Government Solutions. My last job there was president of the product solutions group, which focused on voice over IP transitions, broadband technologies and wireless technologies. I also spent about a year at a start up.
I came to Ericsson Federal after I had the opportunity to meet Doug Smith, EFI’s president and CEO, and discuss his vision and the opportunities at the company. I felt Doug’s vision and strategy was exactly what the government marketplace needed, and I believed that I could make an impact. So I joined EFI in October 2008 as senior vice president of business development.
“EFI will be a leader by staying ahead of the technology curve and helping our customers do the same” – Bob Dunn
ExecutiveBiz: So one of your focus areas is to work closely with the military to evaluate different ways to have broadband and video communications solutions reach soldiers. Can you tell us specifically what these tools can achieve and how do you go about finding new solutions?
Dunn: Our EFI tactical edge networking solutions deliver broadband solutions to the battlefield, specifically so the military can have as much real-time information as possible – full speed, high definition voice, data and video. These kind of real-time services would be new solutions to many battlefield operations. Our technology assists warfighters to more quickly and easily evaluate the threats and the situations that surround them. In some battlefield situations today, warfighters are using 20-year-old communications technologies while fighting against insurgents leveraging the most modern and advanced communications technologies available.
To ensure EFI solutions continually incorporate the latest innovations to best meet these ever-changing complex requirements, EFI works very closely with DOD and its systems integrators. We are also tapped into Ericsson, our parent company, which invests $5 billion annually in research and development and is the worldwide leader in 2G, 3G and 4G mobile technologies. Basically, we work with Ericsson to understand its technology road map, combine that with what the agencies and the integrators outline as their requirements, add in EFI government-specific R&D expertise, and then offer what we think are the best government communications solutions available in the marketplace.
ExecutiveBiz: What emerging trends do you see for EFI in the upcoming year? How will you continue to be a leader in these solutions?
Dunn: EFI will be a leader by staying ahead of the technology curve and helping our customers do the same. We continually offer our customers advanced communications capabilities more quickly and more cost effectively than competing solutions. So, for example, as the government evaluates its communications options – and whether that’s 2G, 3G or fourth generation technologies – EFI is at the forefront as a result of Ericsson’s work with our commercial customers such as Verizon, T Mobile and AT&T. We take our standards-based, basically COTS communications capabilities that we’ve perfected with industry leaders, and then work with our government and military customer base – DOD, DHS and others – to make sure that they can leverage what is already commercially tested more quickly and at a lower cost. We saw this shift occur in the computer industry, where a COTS approach provides robust solutions for many agency computing requirements. We believe we will see the same trend occur in the communications industry.
Another area that we are watching closely is the U.S. broadband stimulus initiative. EFI recently signed a deal with the city of Salisbury, N.C. where we will provide an end-to-end solution from a broadband perspective – in this case, IPTV. The U.S. government’s increased focus on maximizing the capabilities of broadband throughout the country will open up many new ways of working, learning, and providing services to citizens. This is another emerging trend that will likely spur additional new applications of broadband technology.
EFI also looks at things like international infrastructure in ways that other companies, frankly, just can’t. When you look at Ericsson’s global presence and the way EFI works in the government marketplace, we not only deliver the best technology solutions but can also engage many people across the globe and tap into their country expertise. Right now we’re involved with the Haiti relief effort and other international infrastructure situations to help countries evaluate their wireless and broadband needs. Given our global leadership, we will continue to work closely with government agencies to help them evaluate their options.
ExecutiveBiz: And as we talk about new trends, I think about predictions. Where do you see EFI a few years down the road?
Dunn: I believe the communications trends in the government space will be very similar to the commercial marketplace. Everyone is interested in handheld devices, such as the iPhone, and the applications associated with these mobile smartphones. We are working closely with our government and military customers to evaluate the benefits of those kind of devices and applications to determine how they can be applied to their missions. EFI is helping customers understand that with 4G technology, you can have much bigger pipes and much faster connectivity speeds at lower costs. Whether the government customer is tied into a major program, re-evaluating an existing program or looking at technology refresh, EFI will continue to play a part in helping them to identify the best solution.
So the groundwork for where EFI will be a few years down the road is being laid today, as we are increasingly serving in roles as both a trusted advisor as well as a solutions provider. Ultimately, EFI is in a unique position to help our customers move and stay ahead of the technology curve as they evaluate emerging communications trends going forward.
ExecutiveBiz: What is your favorite part of your job? What gets you excited and want to go to work every morning?
Dunn: I like being part of a team that is focused on one mission, one strategy, one vision: to be the network integration partner of our customers. What Doug Smith has done as our CEO is coalesce around that one mission and work to address our customers’ technology needs, requirements and missions. Coming to work and making sure we’re all on the same page and all focused on the same customer base is exciting: the technology is exciting as is the fact that customers regularly reach out to us for those next generation solutions. So at EFI, I am a part of something somewhat visionary that the customer is interested in,and we have the team and the technology that can actually make the vision a reality.
ExecutiveBiz: You have two young sons, what are some of your favorite things that you do with your sons?
Dunn: Two years ago I bought them a ping pong table and I taught them how to hit. Even though they are now very good, I enjoy beating them! They also play sports. My older son, Bobby (12), made it to the nationals twice in track, running the 3K. That was a thrill for me because I certainly couldn’t do it, I never have been able to run like that, so it’s exciting to watch. My younger son, Jack (10), has the purest golf swing – I can only hope to swing like that. So my free time is spent with my kids and with my family and that’s what I get the most pleasure out of, personally.
ExecutiveBiz: And now can you tell us about your prior involvement with the Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association and what types of things do you do with this organization?
Dunn: I was on the board of AFCE International and was very involved in the meetings and the planning associated with those events. While personally, my volunteer work is now outside of that with charity work through my church and some other organizations, Ericsson Federal is very involved in organizations that help DOD and DHS advance their missions.
ExecutiveBiz: That is all of my questions. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Dunn: I think what differentiates EFI is that we are truly a network integrator that can look at solutions holistically – incorporating technologies from many vendors into an end-to-end approach focused on government priorities. Given our global expertise, we also often approach communications challenges in different ways than the customer may currently be thinking about. Basically, here at EFI, we combine government-specific expertise with world-class communications technology leadership. We believe that for solving government communications challenges, it is the best of both worlds.