Five Questions with New Accela CEO Gary Kovacs
Gary Kovacs, who has held senior executive positions at AVG Technologies, Mozilla, Adobe and others, hopes to usher the government software company into a new era with speed and adaptability.
Formerly a CEO at AVG Technologies and Mozilla Corporation, Kovacs, 55, has also held senior executive positions at Adobe, SAP and IBM, as well as a stint leading Zi Corp., a mobile text-messaging company. According to a news release, he’s a board member for several technology companies and not-for-profits including Make-A-Wish and Runway Capital, and serves on the advisory boards of DocuSign and the University of Calgary.
At Accela, Kovacs will focus on improving the customer experience, accelerating the software-as-a-service transformation for both the company and its customers, working with the company’s leadership team and recruiting new partners. He joins the company three months after it announced a global go-to-market collaboration with Microsoft and six months after his predecessor, Ed Daihl, announced he was stepping down for personal reasons.
After starting his new role Monday at Accela’s headquarters in San Ramon, Calif., Kovacs spoke with Government Technology about how he got there, the challenges of widespread cloud adoption and what one of the world’s largest government cloud-software providers has in store for the gov tech market.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
YOU'VE WORKED AT A HANDFUL OF MAJOR SOFTWARE COMPANIES AROUND THE WORLD. HAVE YOU WORKED WITH ACCELA BEFORE THROUGH ANY OF THOSE?Just through Berkshire Partners, our core investor.
WHAT MAKES ACCELA A GOOD FIT FOR YOU? TELL ME ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE AND VISION YOU'LL BRING TO A COMPANY THAT'S SPEARHEADING CLOUD TECHNOLOGY.My profile has been fairly consistent in terms of the types of organizations and opportunities I have been drawn toward, or have sought me out, which is companies that have a solid foundation and then need to make a shift. I always have referred to myself as the inflection-point guy. The shift from something that is and has been, in government, fairly typical, and a very measured approach and evolution, suddenly needs to be much more adaptable and quick — and obviously that’s part of the move to the cloud as well. So working at an organization where this shift now has to accelerate, while we do a better job with our customers, while we introduce … some pretty exciting technologies, that is my profile. If I look back on my career, that’s what I have led in every role that I have taken previously. So I saw the same characteristics, I was aligned very closely with the core investors, and frankly, governments just need to do a better job of serving their citizens, and I thought, put all this together and this is a pretty ripe and great opportunity.
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CONCERNS OR OBSTACLES FOR GOVERNMENT AGENCIES ADOPTING CLOUD-BASED PLATFORMS?I’m not sure it’s just limited to cloud-based platforms, but it’s really about new technologies. The first is the pace at which they can be adopted, implemented. Everything from the budgeting cycle through the implementation just takes too long. So we can sit back and talk about governments moving slowly and all the rest of it, but I don’t think that’s the issue. I think we, as software and technology providers, need to have more flexible solutions, need to be able to implement them more (incrementally), and need to be able to have a platform that governments, when they need something next, can add onto a lot easier than in the past. That’s our responsibility to do, and I think that’s what’s going to help government in the manner in which they have to serve their citizens, which is a pretty fast-moving business.
AS THE MARKET FOR PERMITTING AND LICENSING SOFTWARE BECOMES MORE COMPETITIVE, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON ACCELA'S POSITION IN THE MARKET?I think Accela has a very solid position, but we have to do better on delivering products, we have to deliver them faster … in a more bite-sized approach. Turning the customers who have been with us for a long time into advocates that are really excited about what we’re doing next is the next stage of what we have to do.
WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY CURIOUS OR EXCITED ABOUT IN THE GOV TECH FIELD RIGHT NOW?I’m a staunch advocate of cloud systems, and where the server resides is almost irrelevant, whether it’s on-premise or in the cloud. What I like is, it’s able to be adaptable, and being able to add to it very quickly. … If we had to implement more on-premise services to serve some of the new needs, it just takes too long. Anything from cannabis licensing to Uber licensing or all the regulations that are being contemplated at the different levels of government, it just takes too long, and we just can’t adapt …
Also, government now has to keep pace with the technology on the market, so as new applications … have to move quick, they’re not really tasked to be able to do that as effectively as most of them want. I follow this evolution … of the way big enterprises used to behave — it just resulted in the end-users, the employees of a company, doing things on their own. They brought in smartphones, they brought in (other technologies), and IT didn’t have the systems to be able to keep up. So the first step was resistance in big corporate enterprises, and the second step was, we just need to have a more flexible platform. And then last, the employees at the time, in this case the citizens, do what they need to do, and we’re just going to support. I see the same evolution happening here, and we’re earlier in than we are in the corporate IT space, but it’s a strong parallel.