Weber joined Software AG upon that company's acquisition of Fairfax, Va.-based webMethods and subsequently served as national vice president prior to his current position.
In this conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Weber discusses some of the subsidiary's prime focus areas, the challenges customers face in managing big data and similarities he sees in both the commercial and federal markets.
ExecutiveBiz: When did Software AG Government Solutions officially open for business?
Tod Weber: Software AG Government Solutions officially opened for business on August 1, 2012, which is when we moved our employees into our new facility.
ExecutiveBiz: What have you been focusing on in starting up the business?
Weber: First on our agenda was handling the infrastructure needs of getting an independent company set up. All of our IT and financial systems had to be taken care of and we had to move the personnel into our new location. We are a $50 million dollar business out of the gate so we had to begin the process of moving all of our existing contracts so we can do business under our new name. Of course, we also had to identify the personnel that would be joining our new unit as well.
ExecutiveBiz: Explain the structure of Government Solutions and how that fits into Software AG.
Weber: As CEO, I have a board of directors that I report to and I am the chairman of that board. The board is comprised of executives with deep federal experience that can help to guide us in terms of making sure we’re successful in this business. I can share more information on the specific individuals that have joined our board in the not-too-distant future.
From a structure standpoint, it’s really that board, myself, and my executive staff that run the company. We have also assembled a team of world class experts that help us to differentiate our products and solution offerings.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some market areas that Government Solutions is focusing on?
Weber: We conduct business across all major sectors of the federal arena including the civilian, DoD and intelligence communities. We also focus heavily on the DoD supply chain which is really defined by the aerospace and defense industry. To this end, we deliver products and solutions for large aerospace and defense companies that help reduce costs and improve the efficiency of interfacing with their federal customer.
ExecutiveBiz: What are federal customers looking for in the services Government Solutions provides them?
Weber: The majority of business addresses two key problem areas. The first area is in integrating disparate disconnected systems together.
That’s what our webMethods product has been delivering for over a decade, and we have done that not only in the federal sector but if you look out in the commercial industry you would find very large commercial organizations such as Apple, ExxonMobil, Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Lowes that use our product to run their business.
If you are a Bank of America customer (for example), and you make an ATM transaction, use online banking, or walk up to the window with a teller, all of that information gets integrated to their backend banking systems through webMethods. An organization such as Bank of America, which has been acquiring other financial institutions for years, has all kinds of different systems. Every time they acquire a company they have many new systems to deal with and integrate into their environment. We help make sure that everything talks together which helps them eliminate the redundant systems, reduce cost and improve accuracy.
Similarly, the government has thousands of different systems that need to be connected and we have the leading technology in the world to deliver those complex integrations. Many of those systems need to be brought together to produce efficiencies for the government and improve the way they operate. So that's one of the areas — integration.
The second area is in helping the government process big data in a very expeditious and efficient way. We have a product called Terracotta and it processes terabytes of data at microsecond speeds and does it all in-memory. That is a huge breakthrough from a technological standpoint.
One of the government's big data challenges is finding ways to aggregate massive amounts of data from multiple data systems and being able to quickly extract actionable intelligence from that integrated view. This would apply directly to fraud detection at the IRS or the Social Security Administration as well as the real-time identification of potential threats at a border crossing. In DoD, you can think about aggregating massive data coming out of weapon systems and widely dispersed battlefield sensors. There are tremendous benefits to pulling all that data together in-memory and allowing it all to be analyzed simultaneously in real-time.
ExecutiveBiz: Based on your example, speak more about how Software AG Government Solutions aims to help agencies solve the challenges surrounding big data?
Weber: There’s no question that there is a big data challenge and lots of people are talking about it. That presents an opportunity for us. In many of the recent conversations I have been in, people are talking about the fact that the answer is not to collect less data. The data is incredibly valuable for all of us in various ways.
The challenge right now is pulling that together in a way that humans can make real“‘time assessments on that data, and it takes a very special technology to be able to do that. Terracotta is doing it unlike anything else in the world, which puts us in a pretty unique position to help with those challenges and deliver more value back to the government.
(Click here for TheNewNewInternet’s coverage on Terracotta’s new big data intelligence platform)
ExecutiveBiz: Describe some of your responsibilities at webMethods prior to joining Software AG and what the webMethods product does.
Weber: I was running the government business unit at webMethods, a Fairfax-based company with a lot of following here in the local D.C. area. There are many people that know the company because of its origin here. It had one of the highest IPOs in history on NASDAQ at the time that it went public, so it was a very high-profile company.
When you think about the kind of work that we do, we have software that can make everything talk to everything. That’s pretty valuable in the business world and in the government world. So I was running the government business unit when we got acquired, and then I subsequently went on to take over some additional responsibilities in Software AG running our major account business as well as our federal business.
In leading our major national accounts team, I was able to see how large commercial companies used our webMethods product. These are some one of the largest blue chip companies in the world and webMethods integrates their various systems and suppliers to process billions of transactions a day.
ExecutiveBiz: How are companies such as yours looking to leverage both commercial and federal experience to help grow their business?
Weber: In many of the federal circles, they want to know what commercial customers are doing. How are they solving some of these tough IT challenges? I mentioned Terracotta earlier and how fast the software can process data. Visa has used our product to reduce their fraud detection from 45 minutes down to 4 seconds. Now when a Visa card is swiped somewhere in the world, they know instantly whether there’s a potential problem because it’s running through multiple systems on the back end and comparing all that data in real-time.
These kinds of best practices can be extremely valuable to the federal government, especially in the current environment of increased budget consolidation.
Back to that aerospace and defense connection, we look at how these aerospace and defense customers deal with the federal government and the kinds of information that need to be exchanged, and try to drive efficiencies into that.
We’ve taken it very seriously, this idea of bridging that gap between the commercial sector and the federal mission. I think that puts us in a very good position to support the federal government when we can help them in their supplier community as well.
ExecutiveBiz: What initially got you interested in aerospace engineering and how do you use that education in your current role?
Weber: What got me interested first was just the fact of being amazed at watching airplanes fly. I wanted to do something close to the aircraft industry. I was so excited about it that I convinced one of my high school teachers to let me build a wind tunnel for a semester which was kind of fun. That project helped me get a scholarship to the University of Maryland and I was on my way.
I love the time that I spent in that industry. After graduation, I went to work for General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) in Fort Worth, Texas. I spent about four years there and worked on the aerodynamics of the F-22. That was an absolutely great experience and I learned a lot from it.
I think one of the things that the engineering experience really taught me – that I still leverage today – is that there are often different ways to go about solving certain problems. But at the end of the day, you have to prove the solutions before you really move forward. In the aerospace industry, there’s a lot of testing and things that go on in wind tunnels before an aircraft ever flies. It's not uncommon for it to take many years before an aircraft gets off the ground because of all the testing and things that are proved out.
In the world of federal IT, I believe that concept of proving it first is very important. Now we certainly don’t take years to do it – we prove it in a matter of days. But it’s really important, from our perspective, to prove out our solutions for the government customer and the commercial customer before we ask them to invest in it.
We have a “special forces“ approach that we operate under. We think of ourselves in that way, where we’ve got a handful of very talented people with very talented IT products. If we can find a problem that we know is a good fit for our solutions, we’ll go in and prove that out in a few days. In the government environment, they can see that it works before they ever commit the funds to move forward on it.
I think that our concept of “special forces“ and proving out our solutions before putting it into operation is something that stuck with me from my engineering days. I think it’s a good way to approach business.
ExecutiveBiz: So you can take those basic problem-solving skills that you’ve learned in engineering and apply that to any business?
Weber: I think from a business standpoint you certainly can. Most of us, even on a personal level, won't invest money in something until we try it out, right? Regardless of what we’re buying as individuals, that’s the way we approach things and I don’t know why business should be treated any different. I think, from the standpoint of my engineering focus, it’s also knowing what the right tools are to apply to the problem at hand.
Engineers are pretty good at looking at problems and then picking the right solution that optimizes that issue. I really believe there are some tools that optimize problems and the resolution better than others. One tool doesn’t fit all.
I personally like the idea of having that best-in-class solution, so that when I walk up to a customer and I say, “We believe we can solve your problem; let us show you how,“ that trust and integrity is behind what I know we’re going to deliver if given the chance.
ExecutiveBiz: Is there anything you would like to add?
Weber: Given the current budget crisis that the government’s going through, it is clear that there will be life after sequestration and the government is going to have to do things differently than they have in the past.
To that end, I believe that the government’s in a position where they’ve got to look for new ways of accomplishing the same mission with less people and probably fewer dollars. Tools such as the kind that we bring to the marketplace are going to be in very high demand now and in the foreseeable future. And we’re very excited about helping the government solve their most difficult challenges.