Tom Ferrando, President and CEO of CRGT, talked with the WashingtonExec about his career in the technology industry, mobility and jamming with “The Dirty Dogs.”
Ferrando also discussed CRGT’s recent acquisition of CIBER and how M&A activity will contribute to the overall state of the economy.
WashingtonExec: Could you please tell us a little about your background and what led you to CRGT?
Tom Ferrando: I’ve been in the technology industry for over 25 years. I worked my way up the ranks, starting as a programmer, moving on to become a solution architect, and then moving into a management role over technology professionals. Sometime in the late ‘90s I left a large corporate entity and joined a small start-up organization, which at the time was called Data Study. At the time, it was just a small handful of folks trying to solve customer problems in the area of back office automation on the mainframe platform. We worked hard and aggressively, and ultimately grew that company through various evolutions into the CRGT of today. We have evolved and transitioned through a number of different industries and customer segments along the way, but we always remained focused on the emerging technology challenges of the day and providing leading and innovative solutions for our customers.
WashingtonExec: You recently acquired a company with larger revenue than CRGT.
Tom Ferrando: That is correct, although top line revenue is simply one factor in the overall portfolio of financial metrics that drive ultimate valuation. CRGT is an extremely healthy company from a financial perspective, which uniquely positions us to pursue this kind of opportunity. In fact, this is our second acquisition in the past two years and we’ve built the organization and the management team in anticipation of aggressive growth, including growth through acquisitions. I think it is a good marriage. We bring a rock solid foundation of corporate leadership, along with a strong growth engine in our emerging technology solutions, while they offer a broader reach of customers and contract vehicles that creates strong opportunities for cross selling and genuine synergy.
WashingtonExec: Do you think the transition is going well?
Tom Ferrando: Very much so. We closed the transaction on March 9th and had worked hard to plan out the integration activities so we could execute quickly and provide a relatively seamless transition. I think both sides are excited. You probably know that CIBER was a part of a larger organization; in fact, a publicly traded, billion-dollar company. We acquired the entire federal division of CIBER Corporation, and we’ve found that the employees from CIBER Federal are truly excited to be a part of an organization that focuses exclusively on the federal marketplace. Our organization is committed to growing the federal business and to providing high-end solutions to government customers, so this truly positions everyone in the new organization for the best opportunity to succeed.
WashingtonExec: It seems like there has been an increase in M&A this past year. Do you see that as a trend?
Tom Ferrando: We saw a lot of M&A activity prior to 2008 and then we saw it shut down almost completely as the economy began to slow down. When times are bad and the industry is contracting, you’ll see the level of M&A activity follow suit. It is just now starting to trend back up again. Companies are always looking to grow their market share, but market conditions impact the nature of how aggressive they can be. Has the trend turned around completely? Not really – it’s still not as active as it was prior to 2008.
WashingtonExec: Have you seen mobile change your business plan at all?
Tom Ferrando: With each major shift in technology, there are always new things to learn and new challenges to overcome. But on some level, it’s the same work we did in the old days; it’s just a different platform. The key comes in understanding how to apply that technology to solve the mission objectives of our customers. There are new device form factors to consider, new aspects of policy and process to grapple with, and critical aspects of security to overcome as you extend reach beyond the firewall and ensure security for data at rest and in transit. Our Mobility solutions help Government customer’s solve these problems, and take advantage of consumerization trends to drive efficiency, reduce costs, and help agencies achieve more with less. We embrace all aspects of technology innovation for what they really are: a new set of tools and capabilities that provide opportunities for our customers.
WashingtonExec: How do you think the government is doing regarding that aspect of mobility?
Tom Ferrando: I’ve told this story before; I have a sixteen-year-old daughter who has an iPhone. In the commercial market, someone can build a great app in their garage, put it out on the Apple App Store and next thing you know, your teenage kids are downloading and using it, whether it is a game or some other activity enhancement. They are using this new application within hours of its release and the next thing you know thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people are using it for entertainment, to communicate with others, to do their jobs, or make their lives better in some way. Clearly, the Government can’t move that quickly – and with good reason. But the Federal Government has been incredibly active in pursuing ways to take advantage of this disruptive new technology. Yet, the procurement and acquisition process, along with C&A processes, remain key obstacles that they struggle with. They are getting better at it, but they will ultimately have to come to grips with how to do this more quickly and more effectively.
WashingtonExec: How do you monetize mobile?
Tom Ferrando: CRGT has an entire practice focused on key emerging technology trends: designing a set of services and solutions to aid with best practice implementation methods and driving tangible customer value. In other words, we developed packaged service and solution offerings, integrating product, service, and hardened methodology so that our customers can better understand and more effectively consume them. Conversely, a lot of companies offer raw expertise, or are body shops looking to sell people by the hour to a government customer. Government customers are smarter than that now and want to know exactly what we are going to deliver for them.
WashingtonExec: What is something that people might not know about you?
Tom Ferrando: I am actually a drummer in a rock band. The name of the band is The Dirty Dogs. That’s my hobby on the side. Actually, most people in the company didn’t even know that about me until last year’s holiday party where we had a live band playing. The band invited me up on stage and I jammed with them for four or five songs. Everybody went crazy and it was great fun to show that side of my personality.
WashingtonExec: Do you have a favorite book or a book that influenced your career or life?
Tom Ferrando: One of the books that I point to in my professional life is Outliers. It’s a great book that conveys the message: if you spend enough time doing any one thing you could be exceptionally good at it. The book goes on to demonstrate that spending a lot of time developing a particular skill has a direct relationship to establishing mastery, and that virtually any activity can be perfected if sufficient time is applied.