WashingtonExec recently spoke with Michael Greaney, a technology industry executive with 26 years of experience in the field. Greaney was recently promoted at Force 3 from chief revenue officer to president of Force 3 Federal.
Headquartered in Crofton, Md. with an office in Herndon, Va, Force 3 provides data center, communication and collaboration, borderless networks, cyber security services and medical imaging solutions. Greaney, who joined Force 3 in 2009, has held executive positions in both public and private companies and has experience in a variety of aspects of business management, with particular emphasis on IT sales and sales management.
Below, Greaney talks about changes in technology and government contracting and trends in the commercial market, as well as the transition from capex to opex in federal IT and how its affected customers. He shares a little about what takes up his spare time, too.
WashingtonExec: With your more than 25 years’ experience in technology and government contracting, what do you see as the biggest positive change in the field that’s occurred during this time? And negative change, if any?
Michael Greaney: The biggest positive change I have seen is that by transitioning from a fulfillment model to a support model, we have become more valuable than ever to our customers. We are proud to be a trusted partner that can handle our customers’ lifecycle IT support and needs, playing an ever-increasing important role in helping our government customer achieve its mission.
One negative change I have seen over the course of my career is that in general, people don’t talk to each other as much anymore during the course of business. Obviously, there is much to be said for the efficiency gained through the use of technology. But I am still a believer that, for the most important matters, nothing can take the place of a face-to-face meeting or at least a live conversation.
“First and foremost, we are educating our people…”
WashingtonExec: What is driving the move from capex to opex in federal IT?
Michael Greaney: The move from capex to opex is being driven by a combination of factors. Today, technology is advancing more rapidly than ever before. While there is a keen interest from the government in these advancements, agencies just don’t have the budgets or the skill sets to deploy and manage them all internally. This evolution is creating opportunities for solutions providers and system integrators like Force 3.
Government end users are used to a more traditional IT scenario on a tech refresh cycle, where you make a large capital expenditure to procure equipment and own it. Many of today’s technological advancements are driving are a more efficient, secure and financially attractive model. Now, we are seeing a real move to the cloud, to a “rent vs. own” model.
Government agencies are not going to stand up additional data centers of their own. We have already seen the waves of virtual desktop infrastructure and consolidation. With these advancements, we have seen a change toward a more “pay as you go” mentality, and there are a lot of efficiencies you get from that. But, this change in mindset is a whole new arena from a skill set standpoint. For our government workforce used to the traditional IT scenario, outsourcing and paying-as-you-go requires an entirely different model.
WashingtonExec: What are the benefits of moving to an opex model?
Michael Greaney: An opex model increases the ease of access to new technology. You do not have to own the technology; you don’t have to have the training; you don’t have to take on the education of your workforce. It is a far easier path to accessing new technology that the traditional method of IT acquisition.
The opex model is also financially attractive because you pay as you go. It used to be a pretty predictable cycle. Every few years there would be a technology refresh or infrastructure upgrade. Agencies would make a large capital expenditure and that would be it until the next cycle. The opex model allows agencies to spend budget in other areas. If you have a third party doing a tech refresh, you are paying for that, but it will be as you go. You’re not paying a large upfront capital expense that is going to be outdated in two or three years.
Of course, security is a major concern in the federal market, and at one time may have prevented many agencies form moving to the cloud or toward an opex model. But now, significant advancements have taken some of those concerns off the table. Now, we are able to say confidently that we can provide these types of on-demand services in a secure manner. There are several significant cloud providers that are federally certified, and they are partnering with key decision makers to secure the cloud for federal customers.
From a cloud standpoint, security has caught up. Whether it’s a private cloud, public cloud or hybrid, security is always a concern because you are putting your data out there. But technology has advanced so much in recent years that cloud providers are now able to prove that they can do it in a secure manner.
WashingtonExec: What is Force 3 doing to help their customers make the transition?
Michael Greaney: We are doing a few things. First and foremost, we are educating our people. Our sales, engineering and other staff members are receiving training so that they can effectively discuss and evaluate cloud requirements with customers. They are learning to shift their focus from speed, feeds, routers, switches, etc. to really developing a deep understanding of new technology and the consumption model. We are also partnering with manufacturers to learn from them and continue to educate our professionals on the latest advancements in their technologies.
We are also reaching out to third-party cloud providers. Through a careful evaluation and selection process, we are working to choose providers to partner with so that we can best serve our customers. Force 3 will be the liaison between our customers and the best choice of cloud provider for them. We are focused on supporting the entire lifecycle of IT infrastructure. This goes back to the holistic view — not just transactional, but also delivering a variety of services, including maintenance providing extended warranties, end of sale, end of life, assessments for what customers need and what their requirements may be. For us in the federal space, managed services is going to be maintenance and help desk delivery services. With this approach, you gain a level of depth with customers that will help us guide them toward the technologies that they need, the tools that will truly have an impact on their business.
WashingtonExec: What does this shift mean for the role of the CIO?
Michael Greaney: The CIO is an increasingly significant role within the agency. Today’s CIOs need to be more than the agency’s leading technologist; they must also be business executives. They have to have a deep understanding of the agency’s mission and what they need to accomplish as a technology leader as well as a business leader. Today’s CIOs are responsible for providing the agency with an efficient, secure way to accomplish their mission. They must be able to guide the agency in leveraging technology and partners to bring in the tools and resources necessary to accomplish those mission-critical goals. This includes the transition to some form of cloud and the move toward a consumption model.
“…I am still a believer that, for the most important matters, nothing can take the place of a face-to-face meeting or at least a live conversation.”
WashingtonExec: What does this shift mean for government IT contractors?
Michael Greaney: It is critically important that government contractors truly understand their customers’ business environment. Contractors have to develop relationships with leaders at the CIO level. That is where you get an understanding of the business environment, technology needs and requirements. After understanding that, contractors need to adapt and make changes that will enable them to meet the evolving needs of agency customers. This is an industry that has been fairly predictable with the technology refresh cycle. We are now transitioning to more services engagements. Contractors have to be able to handle service requirements with a deep customer focus, providing after the sale care and attention, including guidance for new technologies.
Government IT contractors also have to reallocate resources to some degree, moving toward those technologies and services of interest to government agencies today. This might include cloud technology, but also training staff and helping to make decisions about technology. Agencies are looking at the ability of the contractor to be a true partner that can help meet all of their IT needs. Whether that means teaming with others who have expertise that you don’t, or going out and acquiring a new specific expertise, contractors have to be flexible and able to adapt to changing needs.
WashingtonExec: Are you seeing any similar trends in the commercial market?
Michael Greaney: In the commercial market, we are seeing some of this same shift. Security is always important, but not to the same level as it is in the federal market. It is easier for commercial customers to make the transition from capex to opex, so it is happening a little more rapidly there.
We already have a very heavy services play in the commercial market. Any dealings we have with commercial customers already include services. We are seeing more and more managed services, which tend to be easier to get up and running.
Several commercial customers are challenged with being a smaller company, and they need to tap into a partner like Force 3. They can leverage our size to get the technology they need at a reasonable price that they may not otherwise be able to get.
WashingtonExec: Aside from business, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Michael Greaney: I love sports; I enjoy coaching football, working out and I am actively involved in the thoroughbred race horse business. I also support Force 3’s involvement with the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) in addition to my personal support of Children’s Hospital.