Huw Rees, Vice President of Business and Channel Development at 8x8 (Nasdaq: EGHT), may not be your typical government solutions leader. He doesn't come from a government agency or integrator, but he has dealt with the government and knows how to scale the sales of every business unit he runs.
As Rees' title suggests, his movement into the public sector was one area of development he has led by switching from an OEM approach to a focus on end-users including both consumers and small businesses.
"My title is VP of business development, and I thought this was one of those areas we could move into," Rees said. "I know how difficult it is to start and get going in the government business, but once you do get going and start to build the business it's extremely good because it's very stable."
A key win in 8x8's movement into the public sector came last year when it was named as a subcontractor to Level 3 Communications (Nasdaq: LVLT), which currently serves as a prime contract holder on both GSA Networx Enterprise and the Washington Interagency Telecommunications Service-3 (WITS-3 contract).
"The main thing for us was getting the teaming agreement in place last year with Level 3, which got us effectively able to bid on some of these larger contracts we would not have been able to bid on ourselves," Rees said. "Level 3 is a prime contractor on two major contracts that include VoIP: Networx Enterprise and WITS-3."
Although Rees said the government contracts he won as a result of their relationship with Level 3 have been relatively small, they are good proof points that its hosted VoIP service can work for government agencies. They did win one deal with the Maritime Commission for a 170 phone implementation in Washington D.C.
Of course, Rees freely admits serving the government is not for the faint of heart. Government agencies want a service that's secure and runs over a private network. In serving agencies like the Maritime Commission, 8x8 runs its VoIP service over Level 3's private fiber network.
Not surprisingly, one of Rees' initial challenges in getting agencies to even look at 8X8's managed VoIP service wasn't just the long sales cycles, but also in convincing agency representatives, including the General Services Administration (GSA) that a hosted VoIP solution can work effectively like a premises-based voice product.
"We've had multiple meetings with the GSA and I think they were initially skeptical, but they were very interested to see if it would work," Rees said. "I am happy to say it did work and GSA has been sort of a fan and going from being skeptical and it's the way to go."
While 8X8 will certainly face the inevitable challenges of making sure its services are competitively priced, Rees' reputation for quickly ramping up the various organizations he has run over his 25-year telecom career will certainly help the service provider further its public sector presence.