This is the second part of an Executive Spotlight on Elizabeth Smith, Unisys Corp.’s VP of federal sales.
In this segment, Smith covers the emphasis she places on leveraging a strong sales team and commercial operations to help federal customers overcome challenges.
How important is it having a world-class sales team in this market?
It's the most important thing of all. We actually have reduced the size of the customer-facing sales team, and each member has such a tremendous amount of talent. When you have a lean and very aggressive sales organization, they create a pipeline that has a lot of resource requirements.
The support organizations are often larger, because the amount of qualified deals that these individuals find is greater. So they proportionally have a greater amount of pre-sales tech support, capture and proposal support.
If you don't have that pointy end of the spear, working the rest of it isn't as important because the organization spends resources on opportunities that you can't win.
What emphasis does Unisys place on innovation and constantly adapting to new market environments?
Our CEO Ed Coleman came in around five years ago, and his approach has been focusing on what the company is good at, investing heavily in technology and sales, making the company more efficient, and bringing the best of what we've got to all of our customers.
We have a leveraged portfolio organization that works across the entire company and brings differentiated innovation to each market, including the federal space.
Our recent wins in SAP public cloud hosting and storage-as-a-service demonstrate our ability to be innovative.
Is that one of the things that attracted you to the position?
Absolutely. Unisys has been around for a long time, and it's certainly had its challenges. It's very exciting to be part of a company with a strong legacy that is also a global systems integrator and vendor-agnostic.
People in our market don't often think of Unisys as a company with both a strong government group and a big global outsourcing IT legacy. We've been able to identify and bring those capabilities into the federal space, and it's been very successful.
Is leveraging commercial operations going to play an important role in capturing near and long-term opportunities?
Yes. It's become part of our DNA, I'm really happy to say. We have a portfolio group here in Federal that now regularly has discussions and interactions with the other portfolio groups across the company.
They now constantly pull through those solutions and examine them to see which of them we can bring to the federal market more quickly. We're getting much more agile and it will continue to be a key part of our strategy.
What challenges do your customers face?
The key challenge that we're trying to help the customers with is around immediate budget issues. The global commercial environment went through a significant retraction and downsizing a few years ago.
When I first came on board, my sales team and I had a series of conversations with the CTO here around what's happening in the commercial market. What we found was that commercial CIOs were essentially told one day, “Your budget is X,“ and were told the next day, “Your budget is half-X.“
They didn't get to appeal it or go through some long process; they had to immediately make changes to provide the same level or better service with a much reduced budget.
They brought in companies like Unisys to help them figure out how to manage through that. By replicating what we did with some of those customers where we had the most success, we can bring that same experience to our federal customers.
There's more complexity in the government space, so the standardization we can provide for commercial clients doesn't always translate to federal. For example, in federal we add enhanced security. So we do that translation here in Federal sales, and we understand the additional requirements our customers face and work hard to make them successful.
I think we will see a much more challenging budgetary time in the fall at the start of the new government fiscal year. They will increasingly need the kind of help that we offer.
What are you most excited about moving forward at Unisys?
I think the most exciting thing is bringing these new business models to the government space. I think the government now is much more willing to assess things like cloud services and interacting closely with industry to reform more routine IT functions. And they want to use what's available in a much more efficient way.
In five years, we're going to see a tremendous amount of change. I think we'll see a leaner government, especially for IT functions, and a much more agile use of existing government infrastructure combined with a lot more sharing across agencies that leverage a common commercial set of capabilities. It's not an environment for the faint of heart, but it is very exciting for those who want to bring change and innovation to our federal customers.