Ray Whitehead manages functions such as business development operations and industry relationships for General Dynamics Information Technology — the defense contractor’s IT business unit — in his role as VP of business development and strategic planning.
Whitehead, a retired U.S. Army armor officer joined the IT unit at its inception in 2006 through a combination of General Dynamics’ Massachusetts-based network systems business with Anteon International.
In this conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Whitehead overviews his role in how GDIT forms its technology strategy for target markets, how he views the evolution of cybersecurity with respect to healthcare and cloud computing trends to watch.
ExecutiveBiz: Which areas of the business have you focused on over the past year?
Ray Whitehead: The focus at GDIT has always been enabling our customers’ missions, irrespective of agency or organization. We see the intelligence and healthcare markets as areas that continue to grow and both present a variety of opportunities. Additionally, the defense industry will always be a key market for us.
The company continues to focus on capabilities that are top of mind to our defense customers, such as cybersecurity, data analytics and the cloud because those capabilities are at the core of what we bring to the market.
ExecutiveBiz: What responsibilities do you have for the IT unit’s technology strategy?
Ray Whitehead: The technology strategy is developed at several levels. At the GDIT level, our chief technology officer along with our strategic planner and a small group of senior leadership keep a close watch on where technology is taking certain markets – specifically, the defense, intelligence, health and civilian markets.
At the division level, we take a very detailed look at technologies, trends and where we stand against trends that are impacting the respective markets. Collectively, we come together as a company to identify our strengths, the strategic gaps and the approach to those gaps.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you see the healthcare market evolving over the next year?
Ray Whitehead: There are several emerging trends where GDIT is very well-positioned to address within the healthcare market.
First and foremost is the emphasis and reliance on cybersecurity. Everyone knows that the protection of personally identifiable information and healthcare information is of utmost importance. Overall, the top issue in the healthcare IT market is predicated on cybersecurity.
Second, data analytics and big data continue to gain importance as massive databases of health records attempt to combine with treatment protocols. This has the potential to transform healthcare as we know it. Additionally, efforts to modernize infrastructure for secure machine-to-machine communications will be a major trend in the years to come.
The ability to exchange data securely without human interface is going to be the key to gaining efficiencies and reducing costs in healthcare. Our primary clients and customers in Health and Human Services and at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are very interested in improving their ability to analyze large amounts of data related to healthcare records and claims processing and payment.
ExecutiveBiz: What other GovCon market trends are you watching for the year ahead?
Ray Whitehead: We are in the initial stages of our strategic planning process and are seeing several opportunities in terms of potential growth markets. Across the board, the demand for new and innovative approaches to cybersecurity is going to grow.
As the number of data breaches increase, we are being asked by our customers to help defend against a wide spectrum of existing and evolving threats. General Dynamics is well positioned to provide overarching cybersecurity services that are not tagged to one particular product line but rather a total approach to cybersecurity.
Another trend we see is the growing number of agencies and customers becoming more comfortable sending their data to the cloud, and consequently, requiring support to help manage and secure their data. As everything today becomes more and more cloud focused, GDIT is well positioned to support customers as they look for various cloud solutions, either public, private or a hybrid approach.
Finally, the special operations community in the DoD will continue to be of importance to us. Our recent acquisition of ARMA Global has enabled the company to provide IT support and professional services across SOCOM’s headquarters, subordinate and associated elements. It is clear there will continue to be an emphasis on special operations as our Nation continues to defend against terrorist and organized adversaries.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you apply your Army experiences to your current role?
Ray Whitehead: There is not a lot of direct correlation between an Army armor officer and a business development executive for an IT company. As I was getting ready to retire from the Army, a wise person once told me that by staying in the defense industry as a former military officer you only have to learn half of the lexicon.
Having a master’s degree in business, I was aware of and fluent in current theory but I didn’t have practical application in business. Joining General Dynamics allowed me to learn the practical application aspects of business and I was able to bring the expertise that I gained as a customer of a company like General Dynamics into that mix.
More importantly, I would emphasize that the common ethos that exists in General Dynamics and the Army is something that I still draw on in my current role. I wanted a second career in an industry and with a company that shared the same ethos I experienced in the Army, which is all about accomplishing the mission.
In business terms, accomplishing the mission means making our customer agencies successful at their missions. The fact that General Dynamics’ approach to business is based on strong ethical business practices and a total focus on the customer appealed to me. In my fifteen years here, I see that very approach reinforced every day.