With clear mandates for data sharing and tracking of complex requirements, it would make sense for Teradata, with its legendary data warehousing capabilities, to be everywhere in the federal government. But that assumption is wrong.
In fact, except for a few installations in the Air Force, Navy and the U.S. Postal Service, the company is most notable by its absence.
That’s something that Leslee Gault—who took over as president and CEO of NCR Government Systems, Teradata Division, in November—plans to change.
First on the agenda is the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), a natural home for Teradata’s active data warehousing and predictive modeling capabilities.
Gault has already started to refocus her group’s efforts on entering the government market.
“We’re marketing to the DHS,” Gault said in an interview Tuesday.
The first thing Gault had to do, however, was reorganize her company so it could better respond to its customers.
That meant setting up separate teams for civilian agencies, the Defense Department, intelligence agencies and other potential customers.
“We’ve done a really good job of growing over the last three years,” Gault said. “I want to get out and be strategic.”
Gault also said she wants to make better use of existing efforts.
“We have some great implementations for the Air Force,” she said. “I want to leverage these elsewhere in DoD.”
But the big prize these days is in security, especially at Homeland Security.
That agency, however, is frequently hamstrung by its own budget.
“When that agency was formed, they really didn’t get any new money,” Gault explained. “Each of the 22 agencies retained their own budget. It’s not until 2006 that we’ll see DHS stand up with their own procurements.”
In addition to marketing to the federal government on its own, Gault wants to develop relationships with other companies that sell to the federal government.
“We’re putting together a focused effort to form relationships with major systems integrators,” Gault said.
Lou Agosta, a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, said part of the reason for Teradata’s lack of penetration is due to foot-dragging on the part of the government.
“The government has been a lagging adopter of technology,” Agosta said.
He said he thinks recent attempts by the Homeland Security department and other agencies to catch up with more modern IT hold a lot of promise for Teradata’s products.
One advantage for Teradata is the large number of unlikely locations of data critical to homeland security efforts.
“The DMV is now on the forefront of homeland security,” he said.
Agosta said that using available information to solve crimes or prevent terrorist attacks really boils down to the basics.
“Just getting good solid information to the cop on the beat is important,” Agosta said. “This is a problem that Teradata can solve.”
Current Analysis Vice President Mike Schiff agreed that Teradata should be a natural fit for the needs of the government when it comes to choosing large, highly scalable data warehouses.
“It’s the high-end offering,” Schiff said. “It has the scalability. When you have terabyte capabilities, you think of Teradata.”
Schiff said that Teradata needs to rise to the challenge of marketing its capabilities, however.
“They’re able to handle massive amounts of data in a single box,” Schiff said. “But they definitely need to expand their government presence,” he added.
It’s good that Teradata has signed a new CEO, Schiff said. But the real question is whether the company can put together a product strategy compelling enough to entice government agencies, and a marketing program to make them aware of the technology, he said.
However, the biggest challenge is to provide the kind of centralized view of information that is so effective in commercial markets, to government, where agencies typically pursue their own IT strategies with little effort to emulate or share data with others, Agosta said.
Fortunately for Teradata, the need to move away from those stovepipes is already mandated in new information sharing requirements for the DHS and for intelligence agencies.
“Everyone thinks that life is good if the FBI shares data with the intelligence community,” she said, “but it just doesn’t happen overnight.”
Gault also said that part of the challenge will be to convince parent company NCR to allow NCR Government Systems, Teradata Division, to make changes to respond to new federal needs.
“I’m a small component of a large commercial company,” Gault said. “There’s a lot of education to do internally.”
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