Shift to solutions fuels Verizon success

As government agencies cut costs and look for efficiencies, Verizon public sector sees growth opportunities and contrat wins increase.

Sequestration has government procurement officials sitting on their purse strings even as federal leaders call for information technology changes and improvements. To many contractors, that’s not a formula for success, but for Verizon Communications Inc., it adds up.

“There’s probably never been a more exciting time for government than the time we’re in right now,” said Susan Zeleniak, senior vice president at Verizon Public Sector. “The challenges are big, and I really see government leaders really stepping up to find a real solution to be cost aware and at the same time really deliver a better service to citizens.”

Her optimism is fueled by a change in the way the government market operates, shifting its focus from products to solutions, especially in the areas of mobility, cloud and security. The effect has been contract wins for Verizon such as a $186 million deal from the U.S. Postal Service to manage its private IP network and a blanket purchase agreement from the Agriculture Department to provide cloud services. Another result: Verizon moves up four spots from last year’s list to sit at No. 14 on the 2013 Washington Technology Top 100, with more than $2 billion in prime contracts.

The move to a solutions-based business has been building over time, Zeleniak said, in response to how the government wants to buy.

“As customers are looking at the solutions that they want, it gets harder and harder to break down who owns what piece,” she said. “What we’re finding is that agencies want an end-to-end solution so that one person is responsible for the solution.”

Budgetary restrictions are also driving the transformation.

“The budget situation has made it difficult for clients to make large capital investments, and so we sell our capabilities as services,” Zeleniak said. “They can buy as much as they want when they want it and they don’t have to put that big upfront money to get it.”

The shift has put a premium on training engineers, program management teams and salespeople, she added.

“I think we’re training more now -- probably 50 percent more now -- than we ever did before,” Zeleniak said. “It’s not just training on the technology. It’s training on how this benefits the solution, how does that look end-to-end, how does the return on investment model look for the customer?”

ROI training is a new part of the curriculum since the migration to this format began several years ago. “Now it’s key in the way we work with our clients and with our own folks to sell our solutions,” she said.

Despite the advances, challenges persist, with sequestration topping her list. Still, Zeleniak sees opportunity. “The government still has to operate,” she said. “In fact, it probably tries to provide more services than ever before. And so the idea is how do we use technology to drive efficiency in government so there isn’t a reduction in service?”

The answer lies in mobility, cloud and machine-to-machine connectivity, another area the sector is working to grow.

“We have seen an enormous growth of this technology in the commercial sector using our 4G or cellular networks to connect machines for purposes of whether it’s monitoring or surveillance, whether it’s in health care or public safety, transportation, energy, management,” Zeleniak said.

She says the technological innovations in cloud, mobility and cybersecurity come just when the government needs them most and can actually improve government, from the perspectives of employees and consumers alike.

“I think that there is a great demand on the part of the public for services from government that are every bit as good as services they might get from the best commercial entity,” Zeleniak said. “I think that’s the challenge that the government faces, and that we face as well, trying to make sure that the technology, the buying cycles, the contracting period -- all of that -- allow the government to move quickly. And that’s a challenge. It’s sometimes difficult to get all those pieces moving together in order to effect change.”

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