ExecutiveBiz: How important is it for you to be working with companies such as Esri and other initial collectors of information? What are the possibilities there?
Mark Testoni: It’s absolutely critical. At the end of the day, what the HANA real‑time data platform brings to the table is an infrastructure for running applications that are faster, smarter, leaner, and more effective. Meanwhile, Esri offers a set of geospatial applications that happen to be very important, and the government has created some important applications with other contractors in our market space.
Geospatial information is critical to most of the customers in the national security arena, as is “big data” generally. So we are working with partners like Esri and others develop and connect their applications to the SAP HANA platform.
Then, of course, we have our own SAP applications that have been refined to run on the HANA platform and provide turbo charged results. That brings a tremendous amount of capacity – from the standpoint of analytics, business processes, financial management, travel management, and supply chain management and optimization.
We’re trying to focus on a finite set of capabilities because I believe you can’t do too many things at once. We’re trying to focus on our customers’ big pain points such as geospatial, or “situational awareness” — providing an analyst or a commander with a significantly improved view of a battlefield or of a business account that they’re analyzing.
What’s more, we are looking to build upon that stack of applications and then take others, such as those that we’re implementing for the gaming industry, and then modifying them for use in a variety of industries.
The bottom line is we are at the beginning of a transformational stage that requires us to look at information and processes differently. The past 60 or ES70 years we’ve largely used technology to speed up processes that were the same as the paper ones they replaced. That’s got to change.
ExecutiveBiz: As you look out over the future of the industry, where is this all heading? What innovations and challenges will define the market?
Mark Testoni: In the late 50s and early 60s, four or five guys from DARPA got together and developed a protocol to exchange information across mainframe computers. Who would have thought, 50 years later, that $13 trillion worth of business would be running through that simple set of protocols?
And the next big thing is probably already here, we just don’t know the impact yet. I think the biggest challenge we’re going to have in the next four or five years is that this information explosion is going to get even more dramatic, and it’s going to grow geometrically. We have to think differently about how we look at the world, how we look at that information, and how we can exploit it and leverage it, whether we’re in business or government.
That’s going to be the biggest challenge. We also talk about secondary challenges like, ‘How do we afford to do this?’ But, the true challenge is how do we get our customers and ourselves to open our minds and envision the new possibilities that could come from new technologies? And not to look at them like it’s the 1980s. It’s hard for us to do that, because we’ve been computing the same way since the first computer was built in the 1940s.
But that’s not the way the world is going to look in five years. We’re going to be computing and storing information in-memory – much more powerfully and quickly. So, how do we use that insight, instead of using the same old processes that we’re familiar with? How do we look at the world differently?
I continue to reference the online gaming industry because, when you think of 20,000 to 30,000 people playing a game at the same time, it’s astounding to think that we have the capabilities that can make it an individualized experience for each one of them. Players can compete against each other in a myriad of ways, and game operators can predict how to keep somebody motivated and involved in that game. We’re going to have to do that same thing in business and in government, so that we can better predict what’s going to happen in a world where things happen very fast.
We’ve had an uneven start on that capability in recent times, with some of the latest national security concerns. The Arab Spring, for example. We didn’t see that coming, and we’re going to have to get better at that. And the governments and companies that do that best are going to be the ones that actually survive. Five years ago, you and I would have held up RIM as one of the greatest companies in the world. And where are they today? In trouble. Because they missed some key trends; they missed the idea of an applications platform.
So, as companies and governments, we have to improve our ability to monitor trends, anticipate the future, and see what’s ahead. As I tell my team, we need to be skating to the hockey puck with our customers, not trying to get to where it is right now, but where it’s going to be after two more passes. That’s our challenge. That’s a challenge that we face as a world. I think big data and more powerful analytics is a significant game changer. That’s an understatement, I realize, but the changes that are coming are quite dramatic. And whatever that next great thing is that’s already out in front of us, specifically, we just don’t know. But I do believe it will be “survival of the fittest” in the information age.
ExecutiveBiz: On a personal level what you’re most excited about moving forward?
Mark Testoni: I tell my team that we’re going to alter the way that business is done in this community. We’re not the big gorilla today, but things are moving so fast that if we do the right things for our customers; and we meet their needs with innovative solutions; and we give the customer the ability to buy these solutions in different ways that are much more affordable; then that’s going to be good for the U.S. government, and good for us, too.
We can’t ask our customers to throw away their old investments. It’s inefficient. Instead, we are trying to leverage customers’ existing legacy environment and build solutions that allow customers to turbo charge their performance and achieve great things in a very difficult environment.
Not only does a capability like a real-time data platform like HANA allow for this, but we’ve really experienced a tremendous uplift in data services and how to integrate information. It’s come so far in the last five years; it’s almost amazing to me.
Speed is so important. Customers don’t have the patience, and they really don’t have the time, to spend years building capabilities. Therefore, we’re demanding that of ourselves, and to some degree, we have to demand it of our customers, because, again, together, we all have to change the way we think.
The change is what excites us. And we have to help the ecosystem, as one of the players, in order to help make it happen. It’s very easy to want to stay where you are. Change isn’t easy for any of us. Even the simplest change can be difficult.
By the way, on October 29th, NS2 will hold our second annual Solutions Summit, where we’re going to discuss these challenges and opportunities in the national security community. It will be a provocative, inspiring discussion, and it’s an important event for our customers and for our partners.
I’m also excited about the talent that we have brought to NS2. In my 35 years of being in the business in government, I don’t think I’ve ever been around such a talented group, including two recent senior staff additions.
Retired Vice Admiral Joe Kernan, who was the deputy commander of Southcom, joined NS2 a short time ago. He is one of America’s most highly respected military leaders, and we’re very pleased to have him join the NS2 team.
We’ve also brought on Ron Police, who previously ran Apple Government Business. Ron is one of the smartest, best-connected B2G tech experts around, and we’re looking forward to having his expertise as we work to provide powerful new alternatives in the market.