A close-to-six-year Agilex veteran, Warren joined Agilex in 2008 after spending more than 10 years with Oracle, where he helped start the homeland security sales team and served as branch manager for federal civilian sales.
In this conversation, Warren told ExecutiveBiz how he is helping build out Agilex’s core focus on mobility, “getting the balance right” for law enforcement’s use of big data tools, and the benefits of overcoming information sharing barriers between agencies.
ExecutiveBiz: What have been your main areas of focus since you became president of the Justice and Homeland Security Sector at Agilex?
Matt Warren: Agilex is a fairly new IT services company in the D.C. area. We were founded in 2007 and our dedicated Justice and Homeland Security Sector business was launched about six years ago. We’re focused on the government missions most crucial to our country as we move further into the twenty-first century. One of those missions is national security, with justice and homeland security playing a big part in that focus. The premise as a company was ‘let’s focus on national security and life-and-death-type mission challenges.’
My team supports the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ). Obviously, these are very demanding markets. In order to standout, we decided from the start to go deep rather than wide. By fully committing ourselves to a few specific programs, we’ve been able to create more customer intimacy and a better understanding of the complexity of their challenges, which has allowed us to have a bigger and more immediate impact on the mission.
Our mantra from day one was to solve problems, not simply work them forever. Our track record for success has led to trusted relationships with our targeted accounts and has allowed us to achieve unprecedented growth as a company. When a program absolutely has to succeed, we like to think that Agilex is the company to execute it. As our Chief Strategy Officer, Roger Baker, puts it, Agilex gets to ‘done’ more consistently and quicker than any other company.
We have also chosen to focus on technology areas that are most critical to performance and are often new or emerging. Our four core competencies are mobility, advanced analytics, traditional application development in a nontraditional way, and something we have labeled infrastructure optimization or cloud, which encompasses modernizing legacy IT systems and migrating them to the cloud.
ExecutiveBiz: What experience from Oracle do you draw from most in your current role?
Matt Warren: My experiences working with government clients at Oracle led me to seek the Agilex opportunity. I started my career as a salesperson running Department of Treasury, but when 9/11 happened, Oracle formed a homeland security team, which I was fortunate enough to lead. This job was the catalyst for a fantastic career at Oracle.
However, one of the things that really frustrated us at Oracle was how our technology was often implemented. We would spend a lot of time focusing on how we could solve specific problems using Oracle software. We would meet with various folks throughout the agencies and put together why this technology had good ROI and why this would make our customers more highly available and scalable.
Unfortunately, the plans that we discussed were not followed on some occasions. Things were not implemented for an array of reasons, from the fact that the skill sets were not available, to the fact that focus wasn’t there, to incumbency contractors embracing a “not built here” mindset.
That inspired me to go from a product world to a services world with a really simple vision in place: ‘Let’s use the stuff you’ve already bought instead of starting from scratch. Let’s leverage it, exploit it, and deliver real ROI.’ I wanted to realize our initial vision and Agilex provided me with the chance to finish the job.
Matt Warren: There are obviously a lot of barriers—more political and cultural than technical—between agencies that for one reason or the other make it hard for them to communicate. One thing we’ve found, not only on the information sharing side, but also the cost side, is how much data is being replicated over and over, sometimes within an agency, and then again to outside agencies.
Rather than trying to boil the ocean by tackling agency‑wide problems immediately, Agilex typically starts with a targeted approach, addressing specific challenges and building upon our successes iteratively. C3E, which is U.S. Customs and Border Protection‘s (CBP) Cloud Computing Environment, is a good example of this approach.
As background, CBP has a very challenging mission of ensuring bad things and bad people don’t enter the country while also facilitating free trade. In the wake of 9/11, many of their enterprise systems were transformed virtually overnight to support new missions. Not surprisingly, urgency took precedence over sustainability, resulting in a number of stove-piped and costly-to-maintain systems today.
We’ve been working with them to consolidate all of their data, applications and platforms within a private cloud environment. These more integrated systems and adaptive infrastructure will provide CBP with the right information to make the right decisions, both in trade and in law enforcement. They’re able to exploit data more readily within specific programs and share it more efficiently and securely with partners. This consolidation will also dramatically lower sustainment costs while providing the scalability needed to address new missions.
Matt Warren: When we started the company, before we began to generate real revenue or business, we decided mobility was going to be a main focus. Because mobility was a green field market, we knew we could be very competitive from day one. We also recognized how inherently mobile many government missions were and how much of a game changer smartphones and tablets would become.
Within the sector, one of our first big mobile programs was working with ATF. We helped them define the strategy and infrastructure needed to support agents operating in the field with smartphones and tablets. They’ve proven to be a great learning lab for how consumer mobile devices can advance the law enforcement mission.
Law enforcement is one of the most mobile, mission‑oriented communities in government. They are in the field doing investigations 24/7. For an agent, no matter what department—FBI, ATF, ICE—this requires constantly communicating with other agents, taking notes, recording evidence, and integrating this information with a variety of enterprise systems. We need to make this experience as seamless as possible to maximize productivity and ensure successful investigations.
For DHS, we’re working to build a mobile application environment. Mobility is poised to become the dominant computing interface in law enforcement. Instead of building apps as one-offs, we focus on systemizing the process for greater consistency and cost-effectiveness. By lowering the threshold to creating and deploying new missions apps, we can further empower agents with more targeted capabilities.
At the same time, agencies need to have the right infrastructure in place to ensure flawless, secure mobile operations in often demanding locations. Insufficient device security is a non-starter in law enforcement. For CBP, we’re helping them create the operating environment and security policies needed to support agents working in very remote locations.
Matt Warren: The ultimate goal for law enforcement is to use actionable intelligence to prevent an attack, break a case or identify a crime. This is a real strength of Agilex. Unlike others, we’re technology agnostic, applying the best available tools and techniques to exploit the data. Coupled with our agile analytics approach, we’ve been able to build and refine predictive models to deliver groundbreaking results.
Big data represents both an opportunity and challenge for law enforcement. It can deliver amazing new insight, but agencies also risk being overwhelmed by the deluge of data available today. Building off our long experience in data quality and management, one of our focuses is getting the balance right.
Another strategic focus is exploiting unstructured and semi-structured data, such as emails and documents. Our Phanero solution is being used today to identify unseen relationships and abnormalities hidden within millions of documents. For analysts, it has a huge impact on their productivity and effectiveness.