Steve Risseeuw heads SAP‘s work with the Defense Department and its component agencies as a vice president at the technology services contractor.
The 15-year information technology industry veteran started his current VP role in 2013 after three years of leadership over the company’s Army account and is also an eight-year veteran of Oracle, where he built that company’s Air Force application and technology business.
In this conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Risseeuw describes SAP’s efforts to sit at the table with agencies on technology development under a “co-innovation” approach, his outlook on such partnerships in the year ahead and how he applies his military experience to the company.
ExecutiveBiz: What trend in public sector IT do you see as the most disruptive?
Steve Risseeuw: The biggest disruption is coming from the massive amounts of data that exist in public sector agencies. The volume is enormous. It includes structured data — information that has a high degree of organization and is readily searchable, as well as unstructured data, things like tweets and texts that are exactly the opposite.
Agencies have spent the past couple of years collecting it and now they are trying to figure how it can be used to help officials make more accurate, timely decisions that truly benefit their stakeholders and accomplish the mission. It means that organizations and agencies are no longer just storing information passively, but rather have the ability to act on it. That's a huge game changer.
Here are some cases in point. Indiana has used vast amounts of data and conducted high-speed analytics to solve social problems. They have used information gathered over years to cut their state's rate of infant mortality and to reduce the rate of recidivism in criminals, both of which benefit society greatly.
The University of Kentucky is using its data to improve rates of student retention. Both of these are using SAP and our SAP HANA analytic platform in these cases. In fact, it is more exciting that as we talk right now in our annual user conference in Orlando, Florida we have over 200 government customers looking for solutions and talking with our partners in the SAP ecosystem to solve these really hard problems.
ExecutiveBiz: What steps do you see agencies taking this year to increase their use of commercial technology?
Steve Risseeuw: The backdrop for our government customers right now is a tight budget environment. The commercial technologies that allow them to deploy rapidly, get return-on-investment are critical to their success.
That is why SAP places such a value on what we call “co-innovation,“ partnering with customers, other agencies, other public-sector agencies and commercial vendors to create “best of class“ solutions that are within the agencies' current spending limits. In today's environment, no one agency, no one vendor can go it alone. For example, customers like the U.S. Army are looking at how they are collecting sensor data off of vehicles.
We are working with great partners like Hortonworks and Hadoop to do truly amazing things. SAP gives public-sector organizations the strength of knowing their legacy applications with their intensive back-end business processes, as well as solutions that leverage commercial, off-the-shelf technologies are flexible and can deliver results with amazing speed and accuracy.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you see public-private collaboration in tech development evolving this year?
Steve Risseeuw: It is really exciting. It gives us a chance to look together on successes from other industries and co-innovate, which I mentioned earlier. I am really proud right now with how SAP engages our defense customers, which is my primary responsibility. Collaboration is how we are bringing our partners in that mix.
Collaboration isn't easy. It's actually far easier to simply offer a single technology with a narrow focus. It's far more robust to bring partners to the table and strive to tackle the hardest problems that our customers are trying to overcome. Collaboration and technology development create a deep, thorough, intimate understanding of what the customer is trying to accomplish and working with the framework of solutions we have to meet those needs. It could be doing a proof of concept where we invest in that customer along with our partners.
HP is a classic example of investing with us to do just great things for the U.S. Army. Back in Orlando, Florida the Army just briefed on the cost savings they obtained by implementing in-memory capability from SAP to improve financial reporting and the overall supply chain efficiency.
ExecutiveBiz: Which start-up business did you lead and what lessons do you retain from that time?
Steve Risseeuw: I will go back to when I first came to SAP five years ago. The sales organization supporting the Army account was essentially its own franchise. We engaged the customer, understanding what their requirements were and then set about harnessing resources from within the company to meet those needs. It was essentially an independent start up within the walls of a Fortune 500 company.
In my career specifically in SAP, it starts with the customer — understanding what they are trying to accomplish and putting all the resources we can into making them successful. The Army, Navy, and Defense Logistics Agency are great customers for us. They are committed to SAP solutions and we couldn't be prouder of being associated with supporting their mission and their success.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you apply your Air Force experiences at SAP?
Steve Risseeuw: I am thrilled to be supporting the Defense Department. I love representing SAP in that customer base. I come from a long line of service members. My father graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. My uncle graduated from West Point. My older brother served in the Navy. In my family, military service was expected and served proudly.
I was commissioned through ROTC and entered the U.S. Air Force after college graduation. I served four very happy and productive years in the Air Force. Having spent those years serving the United States of America, defending the constitution, it always reinforces in my mind the true value of service. I've been fortunate to support the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense. The DoD is in my blood and it is real honor and pleasure to see them benefit and become more efficient with the use of SAP solutions.
ExecutiveBiz: Do you have any final thoughts to offer and anything you would like to include?
Steve Risseeuw: SAP places tremendous value on our public-service customers and team. Jennifer Morgan, who now is president of SAP North America, came from our SAP Public Service business in Washington, D.C. We pride ourselves in bringing to our government customers the same optimism, energy and fearlessness that we devote to our commercial accounts. We focus on what can be done, not on the obstacles in our way.
ExecutiveBiz: Tell us one thing about yourself few people may know.
Steve Risseeuw: I'm a reality TV star! Actually, I was in one episode of National Geographic's “The Dog Whisperer,“ hosted by Cesar Milan. At least I felt like a star!