Competitive Intelligence Spotlight #20: Rick Herrmann, Director of Americas Public Sector Region at Intel

Rick Herrmann, Director, Americas Public Sector Region at Intel

Rick Herrmann, director of the Americas Public Sector with Intel Corporation, recently spoke with ArchIntel, regarding how to develop, maintain and project useful solutions to remain competitive in the marketplace. He also revealed how data and technology will transform the future and how to utilize customer commitments to drive company growth and innovation. 

“When we think about competitive intelligence, we don’t think about our competitors. We think about our customers, and their needs. That’s what drives our decisions.”

ArchIntel: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned throughout your career in competitive intelligence?

“When we think about competitive intelligence, everyone has a different perspective. We think about market intelligence and not necessarily just competitive intelligence. There’s two threads that you can think about. 

You can constantly watch what your competitors are doing and respond to your competitor, or you can capture market insights and intelligence to build the best value proposition for your customer. The latter is the better way. Intel captures market intelligence from a unique sensor network of customer, partners, and industry leaders. 

This is a capability unique for our company because Intel partners across every aspect of the federal ecosystem. Intel’s entire strategy is built on deep long term partnerships to take our innovations and products to market. This capability provides Intel a massive sensor network. It gives you a deep understanding and pulse of the market and customer needs across original equipment manufacturer partners, VARS, end users and system integrator partners.

 We perform market intelligence to guide us strategically and tactically. COVID-19 is a great example of focusing not on what our competitors are doing, but focusing on how to bring unique value to the federal workforce.

Right now there are significant concerns around cybersecurity, workloads, cloud and hybrid architecture. You have to determine what offerings you can build out with your partners that meet the moment and needs of our federal workforce and agencies When we think about competitive intelligence, we don’t think about our competitors. We think about our customers, and their needs. That’s what drives our decisions.

With that said, it doesn’t mean you ignore your competitors. You always want to understand where you stand relative to them on your products, benchmarks and solutions. However, at the end of the day, it really is about focusing on the insights gathered from your customers and not your competitors.”

ArchIntel: With emerging technologies making huge strides, how will it change competitive intelligence in the near future?

“The sensor network will need to adapt and be more agile and will need to encompass this tremendous inflection point that is occurring around data. Speed is just a huge factor right now.  Customer needs are moving as rapidly if not more rapidly than the technology because of what seems to be an insatiable appetite to process and use data. 

When we think about the challenges our customers face, you see the emergence of edge computing, cloud as well as hybrid cloud and 5G. The advancement of all of these technologies all at one offer an incredible economic enabler across every aspect of American society. 

Intel, like many companies, are constantly ensuring we position ourselves to be in the right spot with the right solutions at the right time. Ultimately, competitive intelligence is about aligning your resources and making those big bets and big decisions. Intel has been incredibly successful at this for five decades and we have a very long lead cycle when it comes to developing Silicon and making multi-billion dollar bets. 

Silicon isn’t something you can turn on a dime. So, for us we’re thinking five plus years ahead to determine what our customers will need. You cannot do that without exceptional customer relationships and an exceptional understanding of what your customers’ needs are. That’s a big part of our market insights and customer intelligence at Intel.”

ArchIntel: How do you maintain customer dynamics as the market continues to grow and change?

“We’ve developed very deep and trusted relationships in the sector. It’s always about value at the end of the day. If you think about your competition when you get to the negotiating table, you have already lost. 

Having long trusted relationships with our customers differentiates Intel in this space. That has taken a long cycle thinking about innovation, similarly to how chief information officers are thinking about our solutions. CIOs think in terms of building an architecture and culture that will last a decade or longer. 

We also consider the people that are in the best position to help us understand the moment and how they can best use technology to achieve their mission. If we think about the economy today and the services to be delivered – it’s all predicated on data, and Intel is a company that uniquely provides all the building blocks to partners that enable that data economy.  

In the past, it was the internet economy or the knowledge economy. Now, we’re in the data economy. If you look at the acquisitions that Intel has made in sectors like artificial intelligence (AI), networks, autonomous, accelerators we have positioned ourselves to be the building block supplier to that data economy. Intel is really underpinning the vast majority of that economy today. 

When you think about customer relationships and customer insights, for the thought leaders in our federal community who are thinking five years ahead about the things that they need to be doing. There’s a handful of important companies to be talking to these days. We have the privilege of being one of those companies because we’re part of the underlying building block and we are thinking five to ten years out about how the underlying technologies will evolve and enable that future.” 

ArchIntel: John Naisbitt wrote in 1982, we’re drowning in information but we’re starved for knowledge. Do you think that’s true at this point? 

“I think it’s indisputable – we know less than 5% of the data out there has been converted to information that you can make decisions on. Where we can use that data to get insights – it’s a game changer. If you look at the opioid crisis, as an example, you’re able to see what some of our customers have done with big data to pinpoint information that allowed the very specific placement of healthcare services down to a zip-code. Those insights change everything. 

That’s what data gives you. The promise is that the insights from data, as our tools and computing power get better, will also improve dramatically. As we design and build silicon for these problems, it allows us to solve those challenges incredibly fast and will provide better insights. 

Everything improves with data, information and insights. It makes us into better decision makers. However, like many things in the technology field, the promise often runs ahead of reality. Which may be where we are at on some of the AI marketing hype. Eventually, that promise will catch up. If you look at the exceptional work that’s being done to optimize AI frameworks between Intel and our ecosystem, the software is critically important. 

The knowledge and skill set of the data scientists within our customers and partners trying to leave these problems will be a really critical component over the next few years. The policies around privacy, data security and data governance are just as important. We’re still very early in the evolution of these capabilities. It has to be a national imperative. When we look at what’s happening in other places around the globe, the US has to move more quickly in this domain to even keep pace.”

ArchIntel: What are some of the long term challenges you kind of see with data and competitive intelligence?

“When we talk to our customers, it’s a journey. It’s the identification of the problem set that we’re trying to solve, it’s the architecture and environment you choose. It’s cleansing that data. It’s ensuring that you don’t have bias in your algorithms. These are all of the areas that present challenges in this domain. The big challenges revolve around protecting that data, securing it and making sure we have sound privacy protection and policies for citizens and for all workforces. 

These points are part of an ongoing debate. I think the promise is incredibly exciting. I look at how rapidly our scientific community is moving on COVID-19, and a lot of that is through simulation and technologies that, even 15 years ago, didn’t exist. 

If you look at the high-performance computing fleet within the federal government, or at the national labs and academic institutions, that entire infrastructure is our ability to pinpoint solutions. All of that comes from data simulation and modeling.”

ArchIntel: How do you measure success in competitive intelligence?

“It’s not a complicated answer for me. It’s having the right solution, at the right place and during the right time. If you did a good job of listening to your customer and your market intelligence, you as a company and solution provider will be able to bring the best total value to your customer at the time when they need it.”