Q&A with Leif Ulstrup: the Future of Cloud Technologies and Big Data

Leif Ulstrup, CSC

President of Federal Consulting Practice at CSC, Leif Ulstrup, leads a team of consultants for the company’s North American Public Sector. Ulstrup says it’s clear that cloud-based computing will become the way of the business world. He thinks government leaders can learn from a generation of digital natives new ways to use the cloud, big data and mobile information.

WashingtonExec also asked Ulstrup what he believes will be the next big innovation to hit enterprise software.

WashingtonExec: Please tell us a bit about your role as president of federal consulting at CSC.

Leif Ulstrup: I am responsible for leading consulting professionals in our North American Public Sector (NPS) unit who have deep expertise in management consulting, technology consulting and enterprise applications technology. Our mission is to complement the core offerings of NPS with government and commercial best practices, foster innovation enabled by emerging technologies such as cloud and big data, and promote re-use of proven solutions across projects and clients. Many of our consulting professionals have work experience serving commercial clients in related domains and are able to draw upon the global scale and reach of CSC through internal competency networks. My group specializes in mission and business applications, and we work in partnership with our IT infrastructure line of service and account specialists to bring our clients a complete solution.

WashingtonExec: How would you describe the way the federal government handles big data and cloud technology?

Leif Ulstrup: I think it is clear to everyone in our business that cloud-based business models will eventually become the dominant way organizations consume and provision IT resources. It is just a matter of time before leaders of larger organizations become more confident in using these platforms for mission-unique functions, as well as non-mission needs.

Federal agencies such as NASA, NOAA, DOE and DoD were the very first in the world to handle what was “big data” in an earlier generation of the IT industry. Federal government information processing demands used to be the frontier that drove innovation and performance in the IT industry. That has clearly shifted with the emergence of social media and its application to advertising and retailers.

The federal government will have growing demand for solutions that can handle big data storage and processing challenges. There is an opportunity for companies like CSC that can bring proven big data and cloud innovations to federal clients. CSC leverages our success with global commercial clients in financial services, healthcare and manufacturing for our federal clients to support mission and IT needs.

It is a very exciting time to be in the IT business helping our federal clients to adopt new ways of doing business.


“I am most excited about the potential of Platform as a Service (PaaS) technologies delivered via the cloud…There are many emerging PaaS offerings that make it extremely easy for a development team to start prototyping an application using the same cloud platform on which they will deploy.”


WashingtonExec: What can the federal government learn from the business sector about big data or cloud computing?

Leif Ulstrup: Attracting and developing high potential talent is the key to mastering the cloud and big data. The newest generation of the workforce sees this potential and is excited about big data, mobile solutions and the cloud. Federal government agencies should do more to promote the opportunities they have for college graduates to become “data scientists” and use the latest cloud technologies to solve tough mission problems. Although there are elements of cloud computing and big data that build on older concepts, I think they represent new paradigms. I would encourage government executives to be open to innovative ideas from their more junior staff who may see the potential differently than those who have not grown up in the world of social media and mobile computing.

WashingtonExec: How might changes in federal spending impact CSC’s federal practice?

Leif Ulstrup: As our federal clients shift to a much more resource constrained world, I think we will eventually see increased demand for consulting services focused on adapting and implementing proven solutions from other government and commercial clients. I saw this shift over 20 years ago in the last downturn.  I think what will be different this time is much more emphasis on being able to go from an idea to operational results quickly with much less money spent on shelfware.

Our commercial clients have been dealing with a tight economy for several years and our experience helping them get more value from their existing investments is transferable to federal clients.  As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. It may take some time to adjust, but I am confident we will see creative and resourceful government leaders emerge from these challenges with new ideas and approaches.

WashingtonExec: How does your company handle some of the challenges of federal IT, such as security or privacy concerns?

Leif Ulstrup: For security and privacy rules and regulations, we rely on our global cybersecurity unit for advice and operational expertise. It is a highly specialized discipline that is woven into everything we do. We work in close collaboration with our cybersecurity specialists to address our clients’ needs.

WashingtonExec: What do you predict will be the next big innovation to hit enterprise software?

Leif Ulstrup: I am most excited about the potential of Platform as a Service (PaaS) technologies delivered via the cloud. I started my career developing custom software at TRW and remember how cumbersome it was in those days to set up the hardware and software you needed before you could start the exciting work of building applications. It was definitely not an agile process in those days.

There are many emerging PaaS offerings that make it extremely easy for a development team to start prototyping an application using the same cloud platform on which they will deploy. The potential to take time and cost out of the development and testing cycle for applications is enormous. We are at the very earliest stages of this next wave of innovation using a combination of cloud enabled platforms and agile development.

WashingtonExec: How do you balance your work at CSC, American University’s Kogod Information Technology Executive Council and MIT’s Engineering Systems Division Alumni Advisory Council?

Leif Ulstrup: I like to challenge myself with a variety of new ideas and perspectives. Those fresh perspectives from outside professional interests, reading and networking all help me see emerging trends that can be applied by my clients and my team. Part of the fun of this business is that there is always a dynamic imbalance where there is an opportunity for business and professional growth.

WashingtonExec: Which of the Olympic sports in London will you be watching?

Leif Ulstrup: I love the extensive coverage of this Olympics. The iPad application with live coverage of all of the sports is terrific. On the first morning of the games, I was jumping from bicycling, soccer, boxing and swimming to badminton and table tennis. I enjoy the variety of sports. I tend to favor the sports in which there is a clear objective measure of performance as opposed to subjective judging.

WashingtonExec: Where is your favorite restaurant to do business?

Leif Ulstrup: I like the food and excellent service at The Palm in Tysons.

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