Steve Derr, VP of Sales and Sales Engineering at Avaya Government Solutions spoke with ExecutiveBiz recently about a number of topics including the rise of the cloud in the government and some market areas the firm is looking to explore in 2011.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you tell us a little about your background.
Steve Derr ““ I spent 13 years with the Air Force, stationed in Florida, initially working on AC130 gun ships and then cross-trained into satellite communications. From there, I went to Australia, then Okinawa, back into special operations, and finished with the military in the White House Communications Agency. After that, I joined Nortel Networks in 2000, and have been with the company ever since. Recently, we were acquired by Avaya in 2009 forming Avaya Government Solutions.
ExecutiveBiz – What’s your take on the rise of cloud computing, specifically in the government? And what role do you see it playing over the next year or so?
Steve Derr – I think that private clouds within the government will definitely be the predominant method of cloud deployment – as opposed to hosted or public clouds. Not that public clouds won’t be used, but just to a lesser extent, primarily due to the security concerns and access. From a purpose perspective, I think the government is looking to achieve two things. One is ubiquity of service, so kind of a level playing field of services delivered to all of the authorized users, and then there’s also the cost reduction aspect of it. If you can centralize your applications in a scalable yet survivable manner within the cloud, then you can certainly reduce your administrative cost, windshield time, things along those lines from a distributed aspect. From Avaya’s perspective, we’re targeting unified-communications-as-a-service as one of the primary uses of the cloud in the coming year.
ExecutiveBiz – What are some other business areas that you’re looking to explore in 2011?
Steve Derr ““ We have three primary areas. One is the tactical market. In Afghanistan, Iraq, those areas, as we continue to deploy tactical solutions on the war effort over there, we plan to enter that in a big way with one of our new platforms, the Application Server 5300, which is one of our core unified communications platforms. The second is video. We launched a large scale video effort in late 2010. We’re gonna take that to the government market in 2011. And then, on the collaboration aspect, we are focused on the ability to make unified communications and collaborative applications easy to use and simple to access in an automated fashion.
ExecutiveBiz – Are there any experiences from your time in the military that you look back to now to guide you in your current role?
Steve Derr – Yes. I would say the leadership aspect that you learn in the military is definitely different once you get in the private sector, the ability to organize a team quickly and then execute, and obviously, decision making. Sometimes, you don’t have 100 percent of everything you need to make a decision, but at the same time, you can’t afford to be indecisive. So, you just sort of haul the ball and go. One of the worst things you could be is indecisive in a military environment or in a business environment.
ExecutiveBiz – What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Steve Derr – To execute the truly important items that will have the biggest impact on the business as opposed to urgent matters. A lot of times, urgent things are less important, and you really can’t afford to let those urgent items distract you, because they may be urgent, but they don't have as large an impact on the business as what would be deemed truly important.
ExecutiveBiz – Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy in your free time?
Steve Derr – I enjoy racquetball and water skiing.