Harish Luthra serves as the consulting leader within SAP National Security Services (SAP NS2), where he is responsible for leading program oversight, staff development, business development and liaison with SAP’s solution development teams.
Prior to joining SAP NS2, Luthra was national vice president of SAP Public Services and established the company’s federal professional services practice in 1999.
In his interview with ExecutiveBiz, Luthra discusses how SAP NS2 is organized and why it was created, the unique opportunities of tighter budgets and sequestration cuts and how the company continues to evolve to respond to customers’ priorities.
ExecutiveBiz: What is your leadership role at SAP NS2?
Harish Luthra: I am senior vice president and general manager for SAP NS2’s consulting organization, which means I am responsible for making sure our customers are successful. That’s priority number one – making sure that as our solutions are implemented, any risks are mitigated, and our customers’ efforts are successful.
Secondly, we work to ensure that everyone in our organization is fully enabled and equipped to help implement software solutions easily and securely. In addition, part of our mission is to provide critical feedback and analysis to our software development team. It is critically important to our customers that we take their feedback seriously and share it back with our development organization so that we can improve our solutions going forward.
ExecutiveBiz: How are you positioning NS2 for growth despite sequestration and the current budget uncertainties in the federal government?
Harish Luthra: The problems and challenges brought on by the budget situation are serious, especially in terms of their impacts on people who work for the government. That said, NS2 is well positioned to provide solutions that create efficiencies and cost savings for our customers. We accomplish that by standardizing systems, consolidating redundant legacy systems, and adding our in-memory database platform, which dramatically accelerates performance.
These savings are not just cost avoidance, but actual hard cost savings. And as managers are looking at their budgets and what they have to spend in 2013, 2014 , and beyond, we find that many of our customers are interested in how we can help them save money.
If you look at DOD’s Investment Review Boards, they’re not looking for a return on investment that may come in three or five years. They’re looking for ROI this year — within 6 months, 12 months, at the most 18 months. And that’s what NS2 can provide to our customers.
ExecutiveBiz: How is SAP organized? You’ve been with the company for quite a while, and I thought you could give some insight on that.
Harish Luthra: SAP is a global company, headquartered in Germany, and at times, in the past, we had challenges in working with DOD and other customers who have operations in the most secure environments. So SAP NS2 is how SAP meets the unique needs of certain US customers. We are an independent US subsidiary – 100% US-based and staffed — and structured to meet the specialized information assurance needs of US national security, intelligence, and critical infrastructure customers. We have an independent board chaired by Frances Townsend, who was the former assistant to President George W. Bush on homeland security and counterterrorism.
So we offer the combined power of enterprise applications, analytics, database, cloud and mobile software solutions from SAP — and all the benefits of a world-class company, including massive R&D investment and experience from working with thousands of customers — but with solutions and services that are tailored to customers with the most secure environments in the US.
ExecutiveBiz: What led to your decision to move from SAP Public Services to NS2?
Luthra: I had been working in the federal environment with SAP since 1997, and some of our customers were always asking how they could get more from SAP. So as NS2 was being created, with all of the credentials to provide our solutions in the most secure environments, it was a no-brainer for me. I approached SAP’s executive team, and they agreed that my becoming part of the NS2 senior management team was the right thing to do for our customers.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some examples of NS2’s current work, and how your solutions are helping customers?
Luthra: I generally cannot talk about our specific customers, but NS2 offers solutions in several areas, including business process optimization, systems integration, data analytics, and infrastructure management for SAP solutions.
Our business process platform is recognized as the best in the world. Our solutions automate and standardize business processes, so that organizations can run better at lower cost.
On the data analytics front, NS2 solutions help turn “big data” into actionable intelligence. There is so much data available today from business systems, sensors, surveillance, and so on, but all that data is no help in decision-making unless it can be analyzed in a rapid, ad hoc way and presented in an understandable manner. Our solutions manage, analyze and present data in a user-friendly way so that our customers can glean actionable information quickly, without having to wait for service from the IT shop.
And, of course, there’s infrastructure. As I mentioned before, NS2 delivers SAP technologies in the most secure environments, and we take a multi-layered, “defense in depth” approach to every aspect of our work. And ultimately means that US troops in the field are supported by the most efficient, powerful applications and technologies on the market.
ExecutiveBiz: You have been at the company since 1997. How do you think it’s changed? Where do you think it’s going?
Luthra: The most significant differentiator about SAP NS2 is that we’re not “business as usual.” We are providing best-in-class performance, significant cost savings, and more flexible contracting options over the life of the solution. This is not what our customers have been used to receiving from major contractors and software vendors.
NS2 is trying to eradicate their pain, whether it’s budget cuts, outdated legacy systems, or too much data and not enough visibility into what really matters. If anything, our solution set has become much broader and more powerful in recent years, and that’s very exciting. We’re not your father’s SAP.
ExecutiveBiz: So what are you most excited about in 2013?
Luthra: With the continuing budget uncertainties and the impact of sequestration, I would say we have more exciting opportunities, not less. We’re really looking forward — and we are well positioned — to help our customers survive and run better in the current environment.
The Federal government, and in particular DOD and the intelligence community, is in search of companies that can help them standardize and save money; help them enable the single security architecture; and help deal with unprecedented security threats. That is what we do.
So we’re really excited about the solutions we offer and the way we enable the solutions. I’m also excited about the successes we help our customers achieve, in DOD, intel, and in the most secure environments on the civilian side, too.
ExecutiveBiz: Do you have any examples of NS2 helping a client to lower costs?
Luthra: An example is a very large government agency recently did a demonstration of one of our solutions to its senior decision makers. The government person stated, “Let me show you what I can do in five minutes with one SAP solution – a task that used to take us two hours and several systems. So if you look at the savings that could come from doing this task over and over on the SAP system, it’s just enormous.”
And when the under secretary of the department realized the unprecedented impact our solution could have on his agency, he was really smiling. It’s that kind of success that is very exciting to us and clearly illustrates our capabilities.
My message to our talented team always is that there is no ROI until we go live. Hence going live with our solutions is most critical for us.