Greg Myers, Vice President of Federal Sales at Microsoft, talked with WashingtonExec about the growing obstacles and opportunities the federal government is facing due to mobile devices and implementing BYOD.
Myers also discussed big data initiatives on a limited budget and the need for a “mobile first” strategy.
WashingtonExec: Can you tell us a little about your background and your role at Microsoft?
Greg Myers: I don’t feel that old but this is my 26th year in technology. I was actually introduced sort of accidentally; I was a business major at Maryland and was offered a scholarship from NCR which was a computer and ATM company. That was my introduction not only to technology but also to the public sector. My role at Microsoft is to manage the account sales and technical teams across the federal market for Microsoft. Government is the largest vertical inside of Microsoft, the largest software company in the world. It’s certainly a big responsibility which I take seriously in commitment to the company and in commitment to our government customers.
WashingtonExec: How far away do you think the government is from implementing a type of “bring your own device” or BYOD to work policy?
Greg Myers: I have a lot of empathy for our CIO clients across the federal government given the balance that they have to adhere to with the government mandates, policies, and privacy & security imperatives that some of the commercial counterparts don’t have to adhere to. It’s a delicate balance but obviously the seeds are in place in many agencies right now on limited BYOD pilots. We are seeing the roll out on policy to pretty much be in place in some form or fashion by the start of the next fiscal year I believe.
“It’s certainly a balance and so quite honestly we spend most of the time with our executive clients not on the end form factor device but on sound approaches to managing infrastructure to be able to maintain the security upgrades, patching, version control and keeping things on the proper side of the firewall. There’s plenty of technology to be able to do that out there in the marketplace right now – it’s just making sure that the policy and the infrastructure are there to enforce the technology standards and security policy at the agency or DOD level.”
WashingtonExec: Where do you see that balance between security and promoting innovation? Some say that in the commercial sector, technology comes first and security comes second, which seems counterintuitive to the way the government does business.
Greg Myers: I think it’s a different paradigm. In most of our agencies – especially in defense and across the civilian and national security group; service can’t come at the expense of security. Those are those extra gates that our clients are going through, and rightly so that some of the commercial counterparts don’t. It’s a tough job. Everybody wants everything yesterday and yet they don’t have to adhere to the liability and the national security concerns that the CIOs in the federal government have to. It’s certainly a balance and so quite honestly we spend most of the time with our executive clients not on the end form factor device but on sound approaches to managing infrastructure to be able to maintain the security upgrades, patching, version control and keeping things on the proper side of the firewall. There’s plenty of technology to be able to do that out there in the marketplace right now – it’s just making sure that the policy and the infrastructure are there to enforce the technology standards and security policy at the agency or DOD level.
WashingtonExec: Do you think BYOD is a good idea? Do you think the government policy should be implementing a “mobile first” strategy in a time of budget cuts?
Greg Myers: Mobility is not something that is just simply going to wait on the shelf for a couple of years. Again, I don’t think the government should wait. I would restrict what each device can do based on the risk profile. I would make sure that sensitivity of data that the device is accessing is actually profiled, use cases are profiled. I would obviously make sure that just the basics; devices have a minimum threshold like FIPS 140-2 encryption and those security policies that are set by the agencies or departments themselves. I don’t think we should let this become an excuse to stop productivity or to stop driving convenience and availability of more effective form factors for the right job. We fully support the government’s drive to enable mobility at every level.
WashingtonExec: How are you all monetizing mobile?
Greg Myers: When you look at hard dollars and you look at the studies; it’s still very hard to monetize it on the clients side as to what that turns into ‘hard dollars’ other than obviously the intuitive pieces of productivity, driving skill sets and the availability of applications to a much larger audience, the ability to serve citizens much more effectively and certainly do ‘just-in-time’ knowledge bases for customers independent of those devices. On our side, as I said, it’s less about the end device and more about leveraging a lot of what the agencies already own which is the Microsoft capability across systems management. I think if you look at Microsoft’s capabilities, we are able to manage across device: whether there are Microsoft or non-Microsoft phones, smartphones, tablets, including the Apple devices. We work with clients not so much on the end devices but on managing securely, conveniently and ensuring that their priorities and mandates are being met in a mobility prevalent environment that they are working with right now. We’re working a lot with everything from business intelligence and systems management tools to the infrastructure management tools that Microsoft has always been invested in the federal government and just applying them to the mobile marketplace. Few companies take such a comprehensive approach. It’s a crazy time for our clients and we’re certainly committed to doing the best we can for them.
WashingtonExec: Let’s switch to the other big buzz word-big data. The concept has been around for a long time – why do you think it has become a necessity now?
Greg Myers: I think large data sets have always been something that we’ve talked about in terms of the manageability and the difference between data and information. That dilemma has been out there for awhile. You look at the stat that 90% of the world data has been created in the last two years – its pretty mind blowing to get your head around that and to think that 80% of that data in the last two years is unstructured data.
I would say that the federal open data initiative is an unsung hero here – the desire for the Administration to be open and transparent is really requiring the agencies to make a significant amount of what was public data available to citizens with little or no increase in the budget. That’s where this dilemma again comes forth with the mandates to be more public and more transparent and more open with our citizens and yet a limited budget to be able to do that. You can see that in a lot of the big data initiatives that the government is putting forth.
WashingtonExec: Do you think the government is behind the commercial sector in terms of big data?
Greg Myers: I think actually federal is doing fairly well and we are not far behind commercial. I think the US government, in fact is arguably some of the most interesting data sets out there behind its firewalls and it’s making a very compelling argument for big data in federal agencies. I think the commitment and the dilemmas that federal agencies have are unique but I wouldn’t put them behind the commercial world by a long shot.
WashingtonExec: What is on your summer reading list? Is there a book that inspires you?
Greg Myers: I’m married with three kids and this job certainly takes its fair amount of time so the reading is really a combination of stuff that I do for trade and for what I have to do to try to make myself more valuable to the company and to my customers. I am reading right now two books; one is called The Advantage which is really about the importance of organizational health as an asset in order to drive more value to your employees as well as your customers. For more enjoyment I love reading books like American Sniper. I admire greatly people that serve in the military; it is just an incredible story of the bravery and courage of our veterans.
WashingtonExec: What was your first job?
Greg Myers: I will never forget the first $8 that I got for cutting about an acre of lawn and the feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction that I got. I think doing a variety of jobs as a kid and working your way up provides a very good taste of the importance of work at any level and the importance of doing work the right way and being committed to it. I worked at pizza places. I worked graveyard shifts in libraries. It’s not the job and what the job is – it’s about the commitment to it and that’s what I try to tell my kids. Cutting lawns was the first job I had.