SUBSYSTEMs CEO Sam Malhotra Talks Clean Data and the “Tumultuous” Contracting Environment

Sam Malhotra, Subsystems

Meet Sam Malhotra, CEO of SUBSYSTEMs, a multifaceted company with interests in the areas of Advanced Analytics, Information Technology, Cyber Security, and Management Consulting for the federal government. Malhotra founded SUBSYSTEMs in the late 80s to jump on the (then) decentralization of computer systems.

Since its inception, SUBSYSTEMs has won the Inc 500, Deloitte & Touche 500, and Washington Technology FAST 50 awards, among many.

WashingtonExec talked with the leading man himself, discussing, among other issues, how Malhotra plans to ride out budget constraints placed on the federal contracting community, predictive analytics, and the concept of clean data.

WashingtonExec:  Could you give us a brief background on yourself and what made you found SUBSYSTEMs?

Sam Malhotra: I started my career with EDS and after four years I found that there was an opportunity to take advantage of a market  shift from large mainframes and large datasets to small and mid-range systems computing in the client-server world which was just gaining in popularity.  Larger government contractors weren’t paying attention to that technical shift, so that was the opportunity that we seized and SUBSYSTEMs came into being.  We started out doing lots of database management, software development around mid-range computers and small-scale computers, which evolved into networks. Decentralized computing became huge in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and that’s what we tapped into.

WashingtonExec:  How has the federal contracting industry changed over your career?

Sam Malhotra: We set up SUBSYSTEMs to execute business as a quality small- and mid-sized systems federal contractor and only used small business set-aside status procurements to kick-start the business. We were successful and quickly moved away from any dependence on the set-aside programs once SUBSYSTEMs had enough business base to stand up to the larger companies in procurements. We successfully graduated from the 8(a) program a long time ago and are today very competitive in our core competency areas.

“There was a huge push in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s for 8(a) sole source contracting.  A lot of that has changed and it is now 8(a) competitive small business and a lot of the work that was set out for large and open competition is really shifting into the small business area that has changed.  A lot of the contracts were time and material and we are beginning to see that most of the work that we are looking at today is either firm fixed price or cost plus fixed fee, which is a shift.”


WashingtonExec: How are you preparing your company for federal budget constraints and/or sequestration?

Sam Malhotra: I think it’s not about large business or small business – I think it is about core functions of the federal government.  Some of the core functions are never going to go away.  Government IT is mandated by law and so companies that focus on those core requirements of the federal government no matter what the budget constraints or the looming budget cuts, will stay vital.  I very strongly believe that savvy companies that keep focusing on the core services of the federal government and keep innovating in those areas will be the winners in this really tumultuous contracting environment. The most interesting thing about SUBSYSTEMs is that our core competencies of advanced “big data” analytics, advanced engineering, cyber security, management consulting and ancillary IT services evolved based on our decades of foundation federal contracting. These happen to be areas of great current and future interest and need by our clients.

WashingtonExec:  What convinced you to start investing in big data and making it a large part of your company strategy?

Sam Malhotra: There are 7 billion people on the planet today and the number of mobile devices will exceed the world’s population by the end of 2012.  It’s estimated that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020.  The technology and computing power in those devices will be creating huge amounts of data both for the private sector and the federal government.  We believe that the government’s increased emphasis on organizing and using data to benefit the federal programs give us additional impetus to pursue both big data analytics and really developing algorithms for predictive analytics. Big data solutions are expansive and ever growing.

WashingtonExec:  I feel like the concept of archiving and data mining has been around for a long time. Why do you think we are seeing government taking more of an interest?

Sam Malhotra: It’s not just about data storage and data warehousing.  It’s taking it to the next level.  We have a methodology that we use with our clients which is called Information Insight. Our methodology takes our clients’ information from their current databases of often disparate applications and data sets, to an a-ha moment of being able to discern data relationships and generate reports of trends and analyses leading to predictions. Data warehousing in and of itself does not really solve the government’s big data problem.  It’s the ability to see relationships within the data that is the key.  That’s what we are focused on; – getting clients that “a-ha” moment with their own data and the relationships that they were not able to see before. Often clients don’t even know whether that data is clean and accurate.  We are also focused on profiling, cleaning and providing clean data so that we can get that insight and then enable the leadership to make decisions based on clean data.

WashingtonExec:  That’s actually a new term that I haven’t heard before – clean data.

Sam Malhotra: Our Information Insight methodology does that; we profile the data, cleanse the data and then on top of that provide analytics.

WashingtonExec:  How do you think predictive analytics is changing our intelligence community and what do you see in the future?

Sam Malhotra: I think the emergence of immediately accessible information combined with cyber threats have really generated massive amounts of data that if properly combined and sorted could yield huge amounts of information that’s invaluable in virtually every discipline.  For example, enabling large agencies to anticipate and be prepared for needs, realizing shortcomings, and combining data from disparate sources, has existed to a limited extent in the past but more than ever now I think federal agencies can share data across Department of Homeland Security components and military branches.

WashingtonExec:  What is something most people might not know about you?

Sam Malhotra: I’m a consummate foodie.  I just love experimenting with different kinds of foods.

WashingtonExec:  What’s your favorite restaurant to conduct business deals in?

Sam Malhotra: I love Acadiana.  I think they do a superb job of taking Cajun food and infusing it with various different styles.  There is another restaurant that I love going to and it is called Rasika and they have infused Indian food with some French and that’s really fascinating.




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