Phil Freedenberg brings 25 years of defense and technology sector experience to his role as vice president of business development at SAP National Security Services (NS2), which provides applications, analytics, database, cybersecurity, cloud and mobile software solutions to national security and critical infrastructure clients.
A former U.S. Marine Corps officer, Freedenberg joined SAP in 2007 after helping develop KPMG/BearingPoint‘s aerospace and defense practice and serving as a managing director and partner of the defense OEM par.
Freedenberg recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz to discuss the tools at SAP NS2’s disposal for growth, whether by organic or other means. He also explains how the GovCon market’s unique uncertainties related to the budget has created a new normal but also a relatively level playing field.
Phil Freedenberg: I joined SAP NS2 two years ago in September of 2011. That was shortly after Mark Testoni, our CEO, came over from SAP Public Services. I was fortunate to be one of the first SAP team members to make the transition and join the pre-existing Sybase Federal Group that really was the core of SAP NS2 at the time.
I joined SAP Public Services in 2007 as a senior account executive focused on aerospace, defense, and the Department of Defense. What really attracted me to SAP were the people and culture of that business unit. I had worked previously as a managing director at KPMG/BearingPoint, and I had worked on significant projects with SAP as a consulting and systems integration partner.
Through my relationship there, I got to know Mark and I became familiar with his leadership style and the type of team he was building. So, I took the opportunity in 2007 to move across and work directly in the SAP software sales team.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you work with your colleague Joe Kernan on the business development side of things?
Phil Freedenberg: First of all, as a former Marine officer myself, it’s just a tremendous honor to work with Admiral Kernan. Having spent time operating in austere environments, I have so much respect for the fact that Admiral Kernan spent 40 years serving the country in various roles — from Navy SEAL officer and Commander of Naval Special Warfare all the way up through his last tour as Deputy Commander of Southern Command. It’s a tremendous honor to have someone of his experience, character and relevance to our mission to work with on a daytoday basis. He is a valued mentor to all of us.
In his current role, Joe is serving as an internal strategic advisor for the NS2 leadership team. His vast experience is a huge asset here, and he understands the need for a more proactive and flexible global network in the world today. Joe is helping us to understand the ways we can support the business of our customer and, at the same time, the mission of our customer. It's truly invaluable to have someone of his experience on the NS2 team.
ExecutiveBiz: What is the key to striking a balance between achieving organic growth and growth through other methods?
Phil Freedenberg: We really have the best of both worlds. For starters, NS2 is an independent U.S. subsidiary of our global parent, SAP, which as of today, has nearly a $100 billion market cap, $18 billion a year in revenue, and more than a billion dollars a year in research and development.
So with that, we are able to take the cutting-edge technologies that are developed by SAP and migrate them into this community that previously was unable to leverage those capabilities because of restrictions on foreign-headquartered companies in the U.S. national security market. So, from an organic perspective, NS2 has the ability to continue to co-innovate on those technology platforms.
At the same time, because technology moves as quickly as it does, we’re positioned very strongly to leverage growth through two other methods. First, the development of an ecosystem of partners who can co-develop with us and basically become an extension of our services organization. And secondly, with key technology partners.
As a provider of a flexible, realtime, inmemory computing platform, NS2 is seeking out and engaging small technology partners who can provide innovative solutions that we don’t have in-house. It’s a really exciting time for us.
Phil Freedenberg: Obviously, the federal budget carries constraints. We've got the ongoing continuing resolution, the uncertainty around sequestration as we move into ’14, and then, right around the corner, a political season that seems to have started already for the 2016 elections.
All of that creates a lot of uncertainty in the normal course of business. But having said that, everyone has to play in that same environment. Our core focus in NS2 is to do what is right for our customers and the mission.
We understand that there are challenges and constraints on our customers' ability to spend across the entire spectrum of information technology. If I was to sum it up for you, our approach is to help them get more efficiency from the traditional business systems side of their portfolio so that they can free up more money to focus on the mission side. And with that goal, NS2 is uniquely positioned with a vast portfolio of technologies and partners who are able to meet both of those objectives.
From an NS2 perspective, our primary emphasis now is in rolling out capabilities so that the operators, the analysts, and other key participants on the mission side of national security can do more with less total cost of ownership in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead as they face an ever-changing threat profile.
ExecutiveBiz: What previous executive experiences do you draw on most in your current role?
Phil Freedenberg: My time at BearingPoint gives me a unique perspective as a business development professional, where my responsibilities span not just traditional, direct engagement with a customer, but also facilitating our ecosystem partners.
Having come from that world, having been responsible for running and growing a professional services business, it was easy to consider myself and our team as being “technology agnostic.“ We were there for the customers, to try to take the best of what industry had to offer and then tailor it for their needs.
Now if I were still a pure professional services person, like I was at KPMG/BearingPoint, I still would be leaning forward to try to build a practice around the emerging technologies. In particular, the SAP HANA in-memory data platform offers so much potential for coinnovation and codevelopment.
It’s not a technology that can be implemented in a cookie cutter fashion. It actually requires intellectual property, domain expertise, and knowledge that allows our partners to really grow their businesses, do more for their customers, and leverage these capabilities together.
For me, it was a great foundational experience of having walked in their shoes and lived in that world, where today I can help our partners, both small and large, understand how to best build a practice around and do good things for their customers with our new technologies.
When it comes to my role at NS2, it’s really the mission and the focus of our customer that drives me.
And one thing that I’m very proud of is how NS2 gives back to the community. For example, NS2 is giving back by establishing a nonprofit organization called NS2 Serves, which will train veterans for employment in our core technologies so that they can then leverage those skills to find a job in either a government role, an ecosystem partner role, or within the SAP business family.
And to his credit, Admiral Kernan has stepped up to be the executive chairman of this initiative. So we're asking everyone who cares about veterans to help us spread the word about this great opportunity.
Editor's Note: For additional information about SAP NS2's veterans program, go to: http://www.sapns2.com/veterans/.