Stan Ratcliffe serves as president of NCR Government Systems LLC, a subsidiary of NCR Corp.
He is responsible for expanding the adoption of self-service solutions to facilitate information exchange.
The 25-year industry veteran recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about potential applications of self-service solutions, moving beyond niche offerings and how self-service solutions can open the line of communication between the government and its citizens.
ExecutiveBiz: What types of self-service solutions does NCR Government Systems offer?
Stan Ratcliffe: NCR is the world’s leading provider of self-service solutions across many industries that enable the way consumers connect, interact and transact with business. This includes ATMs, airline check-in kiosks, retail point-of-service devices and self-service checkout systems.
NCR is the only company that extends beyond a singular niche of self-service technology, geography or market. More than 33 billion self-service transactions are processed each year through NCR solutions. That’s a huge number. NCR applies this cross-industry expertise and solution set, along with our knowledge of consumer behavior, to help the federal, state, local government sectors improve how they interact with their constituents by facilitating access to information and optimizing human and financial resources.
ExecutiveBiz: How can self-service technologies improve transparency and accessibility among government agencies when they have fewer resources to work with? What challenges do you face adapting those technologies to deliver them to government customers?
Stan Ratcliffe: One of the first executive actions President Obama made was called the Memorandum of Transparency and Open Government. What he wanted to do was work to an unprecedented level of openness in government. For us this is a great opportunity, because our solutions enable government entities to become more transparent and accessible to their constituents by giving people greater access to data, soliciting public participation in shaping policy and collaborating with all sectors of the economy.
Our solutions make it easier for an individual to interact with the government on multiple levels. It could be complex like a financial transaction or simple like completing a form online or via mobile device. By expanding access through mobile, online and self-service kiosk channels, we’re giving the consumer more control over how and when they choose to interact while minimizing the need for assistance from an associate. This is becoming increasingly critical for all government agencies whose budgets are shrinking and who are looking to drive greater operational efficiency and make more efficient use of tax dollars.
For example, we have adapted our ATM technology to meet the needs of soldiers deployed worldwide. We have deployed mobile and portable units in the theaters of action around the world, enabling our soldiers to conduct commercial transactions at a local level and reducing their need to carry U.S. currency overseas. This solution, called EagleCash, combines the same basic core functionality of an ATM with the ability to purchase goods and services at military posts and canteens. This not only saves labor, but also reduces the risk of our soldiers in the field carrying cash. That’s not something you would typically think of as a solider.
We also work with military commissaries and canteens, supplying technologies that facilitate the traditional retail transaction on the front end, as well as adding backend databases and loyalty programs that enable soldiers and their families to interact across wide geographic domains.
We’re also working on some really innovative areas with other government agencies around identification management and the ability to access government records from any country or gain access to government support. In theory, if you’re in a particular country and you need access to information, you may go to a local government agency or office. Our technology facilitates that transaction by enabling access and delivery for anything from documentation to clearance issues.
ExecutiveBiz: Is security a concern that the company has to address with these systems?
Stan Ratcliffe: Yes, absolutely. Security is woven throughout all of our solutions. What we do in the travel and transportation industry, the financial industry, and in fact what we do in the federal government, adheres to both public and governmental security levels and encryption devices. We have those capabilities, and we’re able to secure the transaction through a variety of mechanisms – identity management being one.
ExecutiveBiz: What areas of the public sector does the company serve and where does the company expect to grow in the coming years?
Stan Ratcliffe: We have well established relationships with the government on both the non-defense and the defense sides. We are also well entrenched in what I would call the quasi-governmental agencies, such as the U.S. Postal Service, where we have a very large installed base of self-service and assisted-service retail solutions. In the public sector, we’re active in a variety of different states and a variety of different applications, from public education up into the state support agencies.
Our expansion strategy focuses on a couple of different things. Number one, we want to continue to enhance our footprint in our installed base accounts. Number two, we expect to leverage a variety of new initiatives and technologies quite effectively in other areas. As an example, the new evolving healthcare initiatives are going to be heavily dependent upon providing information to the American public and allowing them to transact with the federal government and their insurance suppliers on a much broader spectrum.
We’re also looking to the federal sector to expand our relationships with broader systems integrators. Not everything is going to be set up to be bid by one company. We’re developing relationships with system integrators and small businesses where we can bring our technology to help them solve more complex issues as a partner.
Our key expansion strategy is to better leverage the global services capabilities of NCR. We have a presence in 190 countries on every continent except Antarctica. Our depth and breadth in consulting and design, managed services, help desk, and field maintenance are significant on a worldwide basis. We’re moving into taking a much higher profile and expanding that expertise and capability within the federal sector.
ExecutiveBiz: What changes have you observed in your 25 plus years of experience in the IT field and what forces are driving those changes?
Stan Ratcliffe: If you go back 25 years when I started, it was still very much a hardware driven business in a mainframe environment and applications were very structured. Over the past 25 years, I’ve seen a movement to a more software-centric environment. While hardware is important, it’s more of the commodity behind the value of the software.
Secondly, the amount of tools and the speed at which applications and value can be brought forward has changed immensely. Not only because of the hardware and the architectures and the power of the equipment, but because of the ability to generate value through code in a much faster manner.
The third thing that really reshaped everything is certainly the Internet and the global accessibility to information, which has driven the need for more analytical tools. When I started, while there was lots of information, you could only mine so much. Now, you basically have access to anything that you want to know, and you can slice that data for an infinite number of reasons.
Mostly, however, consumer behavior has changed significantly over the 25 years. You went from literally writing letters and making telephone calls, watching your time because of the long distance charges. Now, I call or video chat with my daughter studying abroad this semester every night for free via the Internet. The ability to immediately access, manipulate and share information is huge, and the hunger for more will continue to change the way we interact with government.