John “Jay” Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Software AG USA, Inc., recently shared his views with WashingtonExec on where the local tech industry is headed in the next five to 10 years.
“We’re fortunate that there is a large talent pool of innovative thinkers, deep technical expertise and a large number of startups and local incubators in this area,” said Johnson, a native of the Baltimore, Md./Washington, D.C. area. “I see the D.C. tech footprint continuing to expand.”
Software AG, based in Reston, was actually the first tech company to headquarter in the Dulles corridor more than 40 years ago, Johnson said.
He predicted, “D.C. will no longer be just where government headquarters are located but a hub of some really great technology companies, B2B companies and consumer brands, besides Software AG of course. Reston and the Dulles area are really becoming mini-Silicon Valleys.”
Johnson, who is responsible for Software AG’s United States and Canadian business operations, has more than 20 years of leadership experience in the IT industry.
He was well aware of Software AG’s strong reputation before he joined the company, and was impressed with its leadership and involvement in charitable causes. Roughly 30 percent of Software AG is owned by a German charitable organization that Software AG’s founder started, he said.
“For the past 20-plus years of my career I’ve largely been involved in leading sales organizations and having operational management responsibilities in technology companies, a few of which focused on enterprise software and particularly business intelligence,” Johnson said. “It seemed like a seamless integration for me to join Software AG.”
“Integration with drone management systems might actually become a mainstream requirement in the next five years, and it will be exciting to follow that.”
According to Gartner’s forecast, enterprise software spending growth is expected to reach 6.8 percent this year, he said. The forecast predicts investments in ways businesses can exploit analytics and cloud computing, Johnson explained, noting that these are two strengths for Software AG.
He also spoke about the recent acquisition of Terracotta, a key component to the company’s new Intelligence Business Operations platform.
“When users need a piece of data, they need it fast,” Johnson said. “They don’t have time to dig deep into the database to find it anymore. Terracotta stores data in memory so that it is quickly retrieved by multiple users within multiple apps. It has really helped our customers make faster and better decisions.”
The platform helps organizations make their business operations more intelligent by integrating analytics and social and mobile technologies into the process and the applications that enable them. This provides these organizations better, real-time situational awareness and the ability to tailor their responses more appropriately to emerging business threats and opportunities, Johnson said.
It’s an exciting time for Software AG, Johnson said, and the company is steadily growing. It’s acquisitions are already having a profound, positive impact on the company’s portfolio, which is well received by customers, he added.
In addition to Terracotta, Software AG has had much success and growth through mergers and acquisitions, he said, noting that its acquired five companies in the past 18 months.
“We are always looking for ways to improve our solutions and we realize that sometimes the best technology is already out there,” Johnson said.
He spoke about a lowest-price, technically-acceptable (LPTA) approach to contract requirements, noting that the LPTA trend is a clear benefit when dealing with commodity-type products that target certain requirements in federal work.
“Software AG offers a strong portfolio of unique solutions that address significant challenges facing the government,” he said.
The challenges include highly complex integrations, extreme scale and memory computing, and real-time analytics on massive fast data streams, he said.
Johnson noted that the company provides differentiated solutions that enable the federal government to address each challenge. He added that Software AG often rapidly provides a solution before the government makes significant investments in its technology.
“It eliminates risk for the government and ultimately delivers a low-cost, technically superior result to our customers. That’s the way we have been approaching the market,” he said.
Johnson discussed big data analytics, noting that the biggest opportunity seems to be with real-time analytics. He explained that businesses need to make intelligent business process decisions based on big, fast data flowing to their networks real time, especially as the internet of things continue to flourish. Streaming analytics will converge a number of technologies into modern in-memory analytics, he said, including real-time messaging, in-memory data grid, complex events processing, business process analytics and visual analytics.
Examples, Johnson said, include pushing real-time offers to mobile consumers based on their locations, optimizing logistics operations to reroute shipping to reduce carbon footprints or detecting fraud, while, not after, it is in process.
Johnson also talked about how he would advise a company to survive an economic downturn.
“First, keep business solvent, and focus on positive cash flow versus profit margins,” Johnson said. “Secondly, run a lean and mean shop, and keep expenses focused on a strong return on investment. Third, make proactive decisions on how to handle challenging financial times. Tough times call for tough decisions on where to invest. And lastly, look for opportunities to strengthen business fundamentals, partnerships and synergistic business opportunities.”
“Reston and the Dulles area are really becoming mini-Silicon Valleys.”
Prior to joining Software AG, Johnson was the senior vice president, North America, for MicroStrategy. He began his career with Xerox Corporation, and from there joined OCE-USA. He also worked for Business Objects/SAP.
Johnson holds an undergraduate degree in marketing from Towson University and a Master of Business degree from Johns Hopkins University.
He said he’d advise anyone starting out in a career to set the tone, the strategy and the vision, stick with it and stay positive, especially during changes that are not easy. Be respectful and challenge people, he said. Those who have the opportunity to get better and to be in challenging environments are motivated themselves, Johnson noted.
Away from the office, Johnson said he enjoys the Baltimore Ravens, along with all of the local sports teams. He also enjoys reading.
“A lot of my reading and what’s shaped me is focused around teamwork and leadership,” Johnson said.
He noted a few business and leadership books that have helped him along the way: Jim Collins’ “Good to Great,” “The Leadership Moment” by Michael Useem; “The First Ninety Days,” by Michael Watkins; and “Leading With the Heart, Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business and Life” by Duke basketball’s Mike Krzyzewski.
“‘The First Ninety Days’ reminds us all that there is a break-even point whether you are a CEO or a manager when you come into an organization. It’s when you’ve got to give the organization as much value as you are costing the organization.”
“Leading with the Heart” discusses how to build a great team and develop the heart of the team to accomplish things as a unit that individuals cannot on their own, he said.
Johnson also spoke about what he deems a noteworthy case study regarding the future and value of big data integration. He talked about what Visa has done to compress the response time of its fraud detection activities.
“It used to take them 45 minutes from the time a credit card was swiped to hit all of the backend systems and determine if there was a potential fraudulent transaction taking place,” he said. “Through the use of massive scale and memory computing using our Terracotta software they cut that down from 45 minutes to four seconds.”
In conjunction, he spoke about where the market is headed.
“Take a look at the recent announcement by Amazon or Google or Facebook to use drones,” he said, noting hundreds of millions of dollars invested in drone technology.
Companies like DHL, Fed Ex and UPS are experimenting with drones for delivery as well, Johnson said, and as more companies start deploying drones they’ll be handling an enormous amount of data generated by these machines. There will be data streams such as battery status, location, delivery confirmation, the health of the engine — and other data will be sent back to control towers. This information will be used to give customers updates via push notifications, SMS notifications, emails and more, he said.
“Integration with drone management systems might actually become a mainstream requirement in the next five years,” Johnson said, and it will be exciting to follow that.”