The Future Calling–Computing’s Connective Tissue.

On any given day, you might find Mike Maiorana traveling across the country to meet with his most valued stakeholders–his customers and his team. But it wasn’t always digital jet setting for the Jersey boy who graduated from Rutgers in 1990 with a marketing degree.

Mike Maiorana, SVP, Public Sector, Verizon Enterprise Solutions

Back in the day, a family friend gave him a hot tip–“those car phones may take off one day.” Maiorana decided to take a swing at this phone thing and landed an interview with Bell Atlantic. Ironically, Bell Atlantic went with another candidate–but that person didn’t work out, and Bell Atlantic placed a return call to Mike–and yes, they made a profound connection. Back then, very few folks had even heard of the internet, high-speed connectivity topped out at 56K of data per second, and the mobile phone–well, it wasn’t very mobile.

Today, in his 11th position at Verizon in 27+ years, Maiorana runs Verizon Public Sector, the wireless and wireline businesses. We sat down together at Clyde’s Restaurant in Reston Town Center to catch up on what’s on the horizon for Verizon.

How Did You Get into the Government Business, and Why?

“I was with Verizon Wireless, and we decided to aggressively pursue the government business,” said Maiorana. “We secured our first GSA Schedule 70 contract in 2003, established the appropriate sales, customer service and operational support, and as demand increased, the government wireless business took off.”

“What attracts us to the government business is the mission. This is not about selling circuits–it’s about understanding the customer’s mission and matching that up with the appropriate solution. I worked on the Verizon response team to 9/11. My dad was a policeman with a military background–so the calling runs deep in my veins.”

Maiorana serves on the USO-Metro board. “Verizon relishes the opportunity to give back through USO; it’s one of the best charitable organizations I’ve encountered,” said Maiorana. “I have three ‘hiring-our- heroes’ veterans in my organization, and company-wide, Verizon has more than 11,000 veterans on our team.”

What are Verizon’s Strategic Priorities in Public Sector?

Verizon’s priority for public sector is connecting government to their mission critical applications in a secure and reliable way. And in the future, Maiorana gets animated as he says it–“5G –it’s a massive inflection point. How do you quantify 5G? Well, it’s the difference between a garden hose and a fire hose. It will radically increase speed and capacity, while slashing latency. You’ll be able to download videos more quickly–and it’ll unlock a whole universe of new applications from IoT to remote medical support. It will provide the accelerated connectivity that AI requires to really take off.”

Last year, Gartner predicted that there would be 8.4 billion connected devices by the end of 2017–outnumbering the world’s population for the first time. The analyst firm predicts that number will explode to 20.4 billion devices by 2020. Clearly, we’re going to need faster, bigger plumbing to handle all that new traffic–and that’s where 5G kicks in.

What Makes Verizon Different?

“When looking for a solution provider, agencies should take a long hard look at the experience of the company and its expert staff, as well as their past performance, crisis management capabilities, breadth, and depth,” said Maiorana.

“Verizon is the number-one provider of network services to government–and the network unlocks innovation. We have multiple technology towers, from advanced networking to managed security services to mobility to IoT to workforce collaboration and customer experience. Nobody offers a broader portfolio of services, or can compare to our national wireless footprint.”

“Our managed security services are the secret sauce–the ability to design and implement solutions, and support our customers. We have thousands of professionals on our Public Sector team–we’re not just supporting headquarters, we’re serving every level of government–from Federal agencies to states, counties, cities, and towns–large and small.”

What are the Biggest Opportunities in Federal IT?

“It’s all about the network–nothing can happen without a secure, reliable, high-capacity network partner,” said Maiorana. “And, that goes double in the emerging mobile, cloud, edge-computing world. Everybody’s talking about SDN, IoT, smart communities, cyber, AI–none of these muscle groups work without the connective tissue of the network.”

“This is all about helping government transform and modernize to offer citizens better services,” said Maiorana. “Why shouldn’t people get the same superior customer experience in their interactions with government as they’re used to in their consumer experience?”

“As a Fortune 15 company, we’ve faced many of the same challenges that today confront the government. This pedigree provides the opportunity to engage our Verizon IT leaders with their government peers to share experiences and lessons learned.”

“We are tracking the MGT Act very closely. We do a lot of professional services work under GSA Networx and the Washington Interagency Telecommunication System 3 (WITS) contracts–and Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) will take over from Networx. And, they’re all great vehicles for modernization.”

What are the Biggest Challenges in Federal IT?

“People are used to a consumer-centric digital world. One of the challenges in Federal IT is giving people a parallel experience when working with government. That’s both an opportunity and challenge.”

“Budget cycle uncertainty also creates all kinds of challenges for government decision makers trying to make strategic planning decisions,” he said.

What Emerging Trends Are You Seeing in the Federal IT Market?  State & Local Markets?

“The network is the foundation, and security is the umbrella,” said Maiorana. “Nothing happens in Federal IT without passing a high bar in security and cyber readiness–and security unlocks the potential for IoT, customer experience, AI, and MGT.”

“The state and local governments are the first points of call for citizens in emergency situations,” he continued. “We’re working closely with local stakeholders and we do everything we can to share best practices among states, municipalities, and cities–across smart communities, IoT, fleet management, surveillance, track and trace, etc.”

How is EIS Performing, and What Should Agencies Consider When Making the Transition to EIS?

“Verizon is thrilled to be a trusted partner with GSA,” Maiorana stressed. “EIS is pivotal to the future of government IT and network modernization.  Verizon is the number-one provider of network services to the government. As I mentioned, we’re clearly very engaged on Networx, and we’re a significant player on WITS 3. EIS is our 15-year commitment to this space–providing the connective tissue to unlock IoT, software-defined networking (SDN), 5G, AI, and more.”

How Do You View FirstNet?  What’s Your Advice to Agencies Considering Implementation? 

“Verizon stands for choice–and we believe that competition breeds innovation and best cost,” said Maiorana. “We’ve always been a major proponent of providing public safety with the best broadband network available–and FirstNet is putting a spotlight on the criticality of best-in-class service for first responders. The diversity of needs across this country requires coverage and reliability. Verizon has a 400,000 square mile coverage advantage over the next wireless carrier and has been routinely recognized as the nation’s best wireless network. To think one company can service all of the nation’s first responders is naïve. We want to enable our customers to interoperate across applications, push to talk, and priority services with FirstNet.”

Maiorana picked up on his mission focus theme again as we came to the close of our lunch conversation. He stressed the priority Verizon places on creating an intimate, trusted relationship with customers. “We’re always aiming to earn the customers trust and create a ‘badgeless’ environment with our customers,” he continued. “We put a lot of effort into living up to our word and delivering against our promises.”

That’s from a fella who knows the organization and earned his place at the table. Looking at the horizon, for Maiorana and Verizon, it’s all about providing that connective tissue for government innovation.

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Steve O'Keeffe
Steve O'Keeffe
The most connected executive in the government technology community – O'Keeffe is an accomplished entrepreneur and tech-policy expert, with 30 years’ experience as an innovator at the crossroads of government and industry. He founded MeriTalk, O'Keeffe & Company, 300Brand, among other entities. O'Keeffe is a fixture on the Hill, in both the House and Senate, testifying on IT, budget, government workforce, and the requirement to modernize government IT to enhance outcomes for the American people and government employees. He is a champion for change, simplification, transparency, and clear communication of IT value without jargon. A committed philanthropist, O'Keeffe has served for 15 years on the USO-Metro Board of Directors – Vice Chairman of the Board and Chair of the Annual Awards Dinner. He started his career as a journalist – O'Keeffe has contributed to The Economist, Government Executive, Signal Magazine, The Washington Post, and, of course, MeriTalk.