The 28-year telecommunications veteran recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about the changes the industry has undergone in that time, the important perspective his experiences abroad have given him and AT&T“™s drive to meet federal demand amidst spending constraints and the push for operational efficiency.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you ensure that your business successfully delivers IT solutions to the government customer and how do you intend to grow AT&T’s government client base?
Thomas Harvey: AT&T Government Solutions is committed to providing solutions to meet the needs of the federal government. As you know, the government is under significant pressure to reduce expenses, drive operational efficiency and improve network security. We continue to work diligently with all agencies to understand their changing needs and make sure we deliver end-to-end solutions that meet these needs.
Often times, AT&T is viewed in the market as the old telephone company, just providing voice and data. We have our core business and the government has purchased quite a bit of in the form of IP-based Virtual Private Networks. What really differentiates us in the marketplace, and will allow us to grow our business, is our network. It has enabled us to build a broad portfolio of products and services and deliver them to our federal customers with an unmatched service experience.
Ultimately, that“™s how you grow your share in the federal marketplace: understand your customer“™s needs, provide end-to-end solutions that meet their needs and then deliver these solutions in a manner that is viewed as effortless by the customer. That’s what will help AT&T Government Solutions drive our business growth.
ExecutiveBiz: How does your access to AT&T Labs benefit the networking you have to do with the customer and how does this help to develop effective solutions?
Thomas Harvey: AT&T Labs is an amazing organization and a valuable asset to AT&T Government Solutions. AT&T Labs has been the genesis of innovation throughout the industry for a significant period of time. Working with AT&T Labs and our core business as a jumping off point, we develop, evaluate and test new innovative ideas and solutions to see how they resonate within government. When you look at networking solutions, our work for federal agencies often has a level of customization that differs from what we offer enterprise customers. The Labs allow us to replicate and test custom elements to ensure the solutions we deliver integrate well with our network and will deliver for the customer in an effortless way.
ExecutiveBiz: How does your previous experience, and particularly your time abroad, aid you in serving AT&T’s government customers?
Thomas Harvey: I have been with AT&T for 28 years, having spent six of those working internationally. It was probably one of the highlights of my career. I dealt with a number of governments including Poland, Hungary, Belgium, Denmark and Norway. In the 1990s, each of these countries was at a different point from a social and technological perspective. Poland and Hungary were using analog mobility technology to fulfill communication requirements. Denmark and Norway, which were very advanced countries from a technology standpoint, were using global system for mobile communications.
If you look across all of the different agencies within the federal government, they are not at the same place. Some are further along in terms of moving up the technology stack than others. My time abroad has allowed me to work with customers that not only have diverse needs, but that are at different points in their technology transformation.
For example, some agencies have rolled out cloud, having moved certain applications, like e-mail and storage; others have not started the transition. Some are far down the path in meeting the September 2012 IPv6 mandate; others have not begun. Clients have diverse business needs and requirements. My experience working abroad has helped me establish a level of patience, the ability to listen and to focus on the customer’s specific needs, regardless of where they fall within that spectrum.
ExecutiveBiz: What changes have occurred in the industry over your time spent in the industry and are there any changes you are particularly excited about?
Thomas Harvey: I started in 1984 when email and Internet didn’t really exist at that point. Since then there have been a number of different things that I’ve seen evolve, starting with the exponential growth in data. I started as a transmission engineer, designing physical transport facilities to support our core network, as well as dedicated pipes to customer premises. At that time, the primary transport speed to a financial institution data center was a DS-1, maybe a DS-3. Now, OC-X speed is the baseline ““ this is a huge change in data transfer speed.
Second is virtualization of services ““ that’s come full circle. Back then, you had a little thin client that sat on your desk and all your applications, your services and what you used sat out on mainframes as a type of virtualized application. You are seeing customers move back to this type of model with the increased use of cloud services.
Virtualization in wireless services is also a huge area of change. Apps that appear on your desktop in a cloud model can also appear on your mobile device as well. I“™m really excited about the transition of virtualized apps from the wireline environment to the mobile environment. Mobility has a phenomenal amount of potential for the government in a number of areas including telework, emergency response needs and driving fleet management efficiencies.
Next, I would say mobility. Back in 1984, the primary purpose of a mobile phone was to make a voice call. Over those 28 years, we’ve moved from voice to basic carrier services, like texting, to now high-speed mobile Internet, with videos being streamed and sent over the mobile devices. Our network carries about 30.4 petabytes of data on an average business day. That was unfathomable 28 years ago.
Lastly, unified communication or convergence is prevalent throughout the IT industry. Years ago, you had a pipe for data, a pipe for video and a pipe for voice. Now, those are converging onto a single network ““ our network. There are a number of agencies in the federal government that are really beginning to embrace convergence and using the network as a means achieve it.
I believe the federal government is poised to take advantage of all of these changes to deliver on their needs.
ExecutiveBiz How do you think mobility can act as the enabler of a government mission and what can contractors do to ensure entities are taking advantage of the benefits mobility offers?
Thomas Harvey: I look at government as three communities: civilian, defense and intelligence. Their needs are somewhat different but, regardless of the community, security is the foundation.
Currently, there is a need for end-to-end solutions that offer security of data at rest on your phone, data in motion traversing the network and highly encrypted voice communication. The Department of Defense is looking for solutions that will enable soldiers to use commercial devices in their work place as well as the battlefield. In addition, there is a need for mobile device management across all communities. AT&T has multiple solutions to address these needs.
Whether they“™re looking to drive operational efficiency, moving applications to the mobile device, moving forms to a smartphone, taking videos out in the field or using global positioning to determine where a particular incident happened, all of this has to be done securely and cost effectively. No matter what community you’re in, mobility is key for driving operational efficiency, cost reduction and helping the government support various missions and functions.
From my perspective, what I think contractors can do to ensure that government takes advantage of these benefits is to make certain there is a clear understanding of the benefit, followed by delivering secure, cost effective, end-to-end solutions that bring those benefits to reality. That’s the only way that the government’s going to take advantage of these capabilities.
ExecutiveBiz: What obstacles are there allowing government employees to bring their own device to work and what steps should agencies take to ensure both device and network safety?
Thomas Harvey: There is a ground swell of activity around BYOD and it is difficult for enterprises to ignore it. There are number of different challenges with effectively incorporating BYOD into one“™s enterprise. I believe the top two are security and privacy. Establishing an environment that securely protects government data while insuring the privacy of personal information will be important to delivering a successful BYOD solutions for any government enterprise.
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