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Unisys Federal’s Ted Davies: Quality, on-time delivery key to Federal IT Dashboard green rating

He makes it look easy. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when speaking with Ted Davies, president of Unisys Federal Systems. Ever since Davies took the helm in October 2008, he’s steered the company’s federal unit toward key wins on several fronts. Among them: high marks on the federal government’s IT Dashboard. For contracts listed on the IT Dashboard that identify Unisys as the prime contractor, all remain “in the green,” indicating projects that have been delivered on time and on budget.

Results like these speak to the solid gains achieved by the corporation as a whole. Under the leadership of CEO Ed Coleman (who came on board roughly the same time as Davies took over as leader of the federal business), the corporation has retired over $200 million in debt, just as it’s solidified its focus on four areas of strength: application modernization and outsourcing, end user support and outsourcing, data center transformation and outsourcing, and security. That redoubled focus translated into a recent announcement by Coleman that the company’s operating profit has nearly quadrupled year-over-year.

The federal unit, which makes up roughly 25 percent of Unisys business, is helping to keep that momentum going. “By putting the focus on people and consistent service delivery — by leveraging successes across the board — we’re moving in the right direction,” says Davies. Here, Davies offers GovConExecutive a look at strides that have helped the federal unit achieve strong growth and results on behalf of federal customers. Excerpts of the discussion follow:

GovConExecutive: Since you came on board in October 2008, what steps have helped your immediate team move Unisys Federal Systems forward?

Ted Davies: Our ability to leverage our company’s heritage and traditional strengths has been really important. We are a global IT services company. We don’t build tanks. We don’t build missiles, and we’re not a federal-only niche player. We focus on IT services related to application modernization, end user support, data center transformation, and security, for commercial and governments clients around the world. And unlike many of the companies we compete against, Unisys isn’t part of a large hardware or software businesses that tend to push their own products. So we are free to partner with other vendors to offer our clients the best technology available in the market, regardless of where it comes from. I like to say that Unisys combines the expertise of a large vendor with the agility of a small business.

GovConExecutive: How has that strategy played out within the federal unit?

Ted Davies: We established a Horizontal Services Unit, which repurposes the work we do in the Homeland Security market, the Defense market, and our civilian agencies into other federal agencies. We can also, through the Horizontal Services Unit, grab things that we’re doing with government and private sector clients around the world. For example, we built risk management frameworks and solutions for financial industry clients in the US, Europe and Australia that we can federalize and adapt for our marketplace. Similarly, we leveraged an e-passport and identification solution that we built in Australia for federal clients.

GovConExecutive: How, tactically, have you been able to leverage solutions and expertise across the board?

Ted Davies: Standardized delivery has been key. So, rather than everybody executing locally in their own account, we have a much better standardization of our processes. We’ve had a major focus on process standardization and accreditation. Last year we got an ISO-20000 accreditation for our infrastructure and data center service offerings. We’re one of the few in the federal space that has that. We have ISO-27001 accreditation for our security operations centers. More recently, we have significantly expanded our CMMI 3 accreditation. Part of the federal unit was evaluated as CMMI 3 three years ago, but the 2010 evaluation was for the broader federal organization. The current CMMI accreditation is much deeper into the organization than we have ever had before around CMMI.

GovConExecutive: People drive success. How have you been investing in your people?

Ted Davies: Investing is the word. We’ve more than doubled our number of certified program managers and security professionals. We’ve really focused on getting our people and processes accredited. We’re linking the two so we can move forward with standardized delivery. Also, we have increased ITIL certifications for our people tenfold to significantly enhance the capabilities of our data center and end user support services portfolios.

GovConExecutive: Employee retention can also be a hurdle. How are you addressing that?

Ted Davies: We’ve established what we call our People Initiatives Board. It’s made up of leaders from across the federal organization. It’s so important to me, personally, that I chair the board. We meet on a monthly basis. Different groups within the board focus on different aspects of developing a world-class group of people. We don’t forget the community, either. Last year, we launched a group, “U-Give,” which is a way for folks in our federal business to champion charitable events, plus get others in the company to sign up. In the past few months, our U-Give members have raised money for things like relief to earthquake victims in Haiti. All of that builds a spirit of community and gives people an idea of how to move their careers forward.

GovConExecutive: Turning to the external front. One of the key distinctions for Unisys Federal Systems these days is the “green” score it’s received on the IT Dashboard. What steps made that rating possible?

Ted Davies: That’s a great question. Because of our focus on process standardization, because of the focus on investing in our people, and because of the ability to drive that through a horizontal services organization, we don’t have any red projects anymore on the federal government’s IT Dashboard. We worked through all of that. We’ll continue on that path.

GovConExecutive: What can we expect next from Unisys Federal Systems?

Ted Davies: You’re going to see innovative solutions. You’re also going to see innovative new relationships with other vendors and partners around town. We have, for example, a strong partnership with Apple today. We’re not only working on the Apple platform in terms of the Mac, we’re also developing applications for the iPhone and now, the iPad. We’re really out front in our relationships like that. There’s going to be more announcements along those lines with other highly regarded partners as well.

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