Unisys says good-bye to federal leader

Ted Davies, long-serving president of Unisys Federal, is leaving the company this Friday. No replacement has been named yet, and where Davies is headed is still unknown.

Ted Davies, one of the longer serving leaders in the government market, is leaving Unisys effective July 25.

Davies has been president of Unisys Federal since 2008 and has overseen the rebuilding of the business.

A Unisys spokesman confirmed Davies was leaving but said he has not announced where he is going next.

In the meantime, Venkatapathi “PV” Puvvada, group vice president of civilian agencies, will step up as acting president until a permanent replacement is named.

Given what Davies has led Unisys Federal through in the last six years, it isn’t surprising that other companies would find him a desirable leader.

In a Q&A I had with Davies in June, he talked about how Unisys’ severe financial condition in 2008 – when the rest of the market was still relatively flush – forced the company to go through cost cutting and other measures ahead of the rest of the market.

The cost cutting era didn’t really kick in across the market until about 2011, and many government contractors are still struggling with what it means to face a shrinking market.

At Unisys, Davies has led efforts at reducing costs, becoming more efficient and restructuring operations.

He also recognized early how the rise of new methods of buying IT, such as cloud computing, impact traditional systems integrators.

In my interview, he talked about a Unisys contract with the IRS for storage. The agency only pays for the amount of storage it uses, not the number of storage devices or servers in its data center.

“They just write us a check each month for the storage they use,” he said. “For contractors, it affects your balance sheet, and it affects the way you bid and the way your cost of capital accumulates. It’s a big shift, but we are figuring it out.”

For Davies, the shift is changing what it means to be a systems integrator because instead of integrating technology, SIs need to integrate different services from different vendors to deliver the solution to the customer, who pays on a consumption basis.

“In the past, you’d accumulate your cost, add your fee, and there it is. Now agencies want to pay by the drink,” Davies told me.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about that concept, but few who can articulate it the way he did, and that’s the kind of leadership I’m sure a lot of companies are looking for.

While I’ve heard a couple rumors about where Davies is headed, I can’t confirm anything yet, so watch this space, and I’ll pass it along as soon as I know.