Verizon Public Sector’s John Harris on Digital Transformation, 5G and EIS

Drawing on 16 years of experience at various levels within the technology giant, John Harris, Verizon Business Group’s Executive Director of Federal Civilian, offers advice on executing digital transformation with special attention to 5G and flexible contract vehicles.

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John Harris has found his 16 years of experience with Verizon deeply satisfying. As lead of Verizon’s federal civilian business, he promotes growth, modernization and experience for each customer, paying careful attention to specific needs, challenges and limitations.

These days, Harris is especially passionate about the possibilities of 5G to help drive efficiencies, opportunities and new experiences to people in all walks of life. And he’s encouraged by improved procurement vehicles such as the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions, or EIS, contract, that allow agencies to innovate at the pace of changing technological solutions. Here, he offers insights into how these capabilities are helping to fuel the future of government.

What qualities do you think are key to building relationships and partnerships with the government?

You have to be passionate about the work. Most of the people you're dealing with on the other side have invested their lives and careers toward public service, so that connection is very meaningful. 

We need to be a solution and not a burden when we're going to provide a partnership to any public sector customer or government agency. They’re always operating in a number of constraints, whether that's time or people, or just the dollars. So we shouldn't be bringing them things that make it harder for them to operate inside of their own environment.

Another piece is that you also have to be open and communicate. Lastly, we need to keep the end user in mind and build solutions from the ground up.

Do you have any great success stories of digital transformation in the government? 

One I am passionate about is our relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs. We have put 5G in a VA facility to deliver a testing ground. We have a relationship with Microsoft and the VA, and a company called Medivis, to look at forward-thinking healthcare solutions, and how we provide better medical care for veterans.

What are some of the key ingredients needed for agencies to revamp and modernize their digital operations and services? 

We are in a state of constant modernization — and I think that's probably going to be the case for some time. 

To make the most of that modernization requires an open mindset, innovative thought process, a willingness to look outside of government, potentially to help solve problems, and a mechanism or thoughtful strategy on how we would enable all of these things, whether that's EIS — Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions — or some other contract. 

And then, lastly, is collaboration across government and industry.

How can agencies leverage the EIS contract to go further on their transformation journeys?

Verizon is proud to be an EIS contract holder. One of the great things about this vehicle is that it is flexible and customizable. In previous versions of Government-Wide Acquisition Contract-type vehicles, we've had certain scopes of service that have been included in those contracts. If you wanted to innovate on, say, networking and add something like 5G, that would have been very difficult to do on some of the legacy contract vehicles. 

With the EIS vehicle, we're able to add those services and help the government build a solution that's inclusive of maybe a wireless connectivity mechanism and your traditional network services. Moreover, we’re able to provide some of the security, managed services or other solutions on top of that to really provide a holistic solution and an end-to-end vehicle that can allow the government to move relatively quickly to not have to go through multiple budget cycles. Altogether, that allows them to be more effective in their procurement mechanism.

The pandemic continues to drive agencies to modernize. But what other drivers are you seeing that will influence change in government in 2022?

Security, user experience, public demand and working from home stand out to me as factors that will help to continue to drive modernization and technology adoption across all of our federal and state local entities. 

I think you'll see ongoing executive orders. I think you'll see ongoing influence from legislators around what is required from a security standpoint.

Another key piece is the supply chain. We have to go above and beyond to show our partners and customers that we have taken a very disciplined, consistent and strategic approach to supply chain security — that the parts and pieces that are going into the physical network are from trusted sources. 

Is there one piece of the modernization/transformation conversation that’s missing and doesn't get as much focus as you would like?

I would consider the scale, flexibility and innovative properties that something like 5G could bring to your agency. It’s so much more than just a faster smartphone or a faster tablet. 

When we launched 4G LTE, things like ridesharing or mobile-based meal delivery services didn't exist. We didn't have the ability for the application to have the bandwidth and the network performance that needed to be so interactive and provide that real-time tracking or these payment solutions or all the different pieces that can come up. If we're able to build companies like that off the platform, just think what we could do with 5G for a federal agency.

What advice would you give agency leaders looking to keep the momentum going with their transformation initiatives? 

Don’t think about it as a holistic shift all at one time, but rather as a journey with steps along the way. Let’s make sure we're making meaningful progress with the right partners and the right players at the table. And reach out. No one partner can solve every problem by themselves.

I couldn't be prouder of the work we do at Verizon. It really is a privilege to be able to serve federal customers.

Learn more about how Verizon is making modernization possible for the public sector.

This content is made possible by our sponsor Verizon; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Government Executive’s editorial staff.

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