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Former IBM Exec Diana Hage, Joins RFIDGS as CEO: An Interview

Monday, February 9, 2009

An Interview by Louis Sirico

Former IBM executive Diana Hage, has joined RFID Global Solution (RFIDGS) as Chief Executive Officer. Ms. Hage joins RFIDGS after serving as ODIN technologies head of European operations and Chief Operating Officer, and IBM’s Director, Global Wireless Services.

At IBM, Ms. Hage was the executive responsible for the strategy and growth of IBM’s enterprise mobility, wireless, and RFID services business. She also held executive positions in Corporate Strategy, Global Services Strategy, and Global Business Services. Diana joined ODIN technologies in 2006, where she was responsible for professional services, European operations, and key accounts in Aerospace and Healthcare. As the Chief Executive Officer at RFIDGS, Ms. Hage will be responsible for the company’s long-term expansion plan and execution strategy, as well as increasing revenue and profitability. Read the full press release here.

I had an opportunity to meet with Ms. Hage and Joe Leone, President & CTO, at their new office in Reston, Viriginia.

Louis: Ms. Hage, please tell us a little about RFID Global Solution and why you joined as Chief Executive Officer.

Diana HageMs. Hage: RFID Global Solution is one of the great, pioneering leaders in the RFID industry. The RFIDGS team has been working in the RFID market since the early 1990's at industry leaders like Savi Technology, Amtech, Sirit, CHEP, Matrics, Icon-Nicholson and Symbol, among other early firms, and they are the innovation leaders in this space. They've taken raw RFID technology and prototype software and leveraged it into solutions which deliver business value for enterprise clients across multiple industries. RFID Global Solution is leading the industry in building innovative solutions for asset visibility.

I was deeply impressed by the team's breadth of experience, technical acumen, and understanding of a wide range of wireless technologies. They integrate diverse technologies from active and passive RFID to GPS and Cellular communications into unified solutions. I was looking to not only join a team that had world-class talent, but one that was a driver in shaping the RFID market. I want to help make the RFID industry, not be a fast follower. Joe Leone and the team he has assembled understand all facets of this industry, and can connect the dots and anticipate where the market is moving. They are two years ahead of other firms in this space. My joining the RFIDGS' management team adds a layer of business and solutions insight to an outstanding, cutting-edge RF engineering firm and will help accelerate our growth.

Louis: In what ways has the RFID market changed since you were IBM's Director of Global Wireless Services in 2004-06?

Ms. Hage: The requirement to have to prove that RFID technology works is no longer there. The technology has matured to the point that quality and performance are a given and the focus is on ROI and business value. The market has rapidly moved past experimenting with and validating the technology in pilots to broader deployments. In order to move the market forward, systems integrators and vendors need to evolve further and become end-to-end solution providers, and offer the types of turnkey, packaged solutions that make RFID easy to buy, not just technology components. At IBM, we were five years or more ahead of the market in terms of defining concepts and industry solutions that the technology was not yet ready to deliver. In 2009, the market is catching up to IBM's vision of how RFID can be deployed in industry solutions. I am excited to be in the market and help make this happen. What we dreamed about in 2004, I can now help turn into a reality through RFIDGS' system architects and software developers.

Louis: In your experience, what solutions have generated the most measurable ROI and business value for your clients?
See Related Article:
Boeing Silver Eagle Award Presented to RFID Global Solution for Developing Smart Freezer

Ms. Hage: The solutions which have generated rapid ROI and high-impact business value are simple, turnkey solutions in easy-to-deploy form factors which integrate right into our client's existing business processes, where there are known inefficiencies or lack of automated data capture. Our SmartFreezer™ and SmartTable™ are two examples of creative responses to our clients' needs which bring significant value to goods receiving and inventory management applications. These solutions have broad application in multiple processes and industries, enabling vendor managed inventory, automatic reconciliation of the receiving process, and automated item-to-case level data aggregation. The SmartFreezer™ has generated an ROI in just three months for one of our enterprise-class clients.

Louis: One of your areas of expertise is the Aerospace industry. How is the Aerospace industry effectively using RFID and related technologies?

Ms. Hage: Traditionally, companies looked to low-tag-cost passive RFID as the 'silver bullet' technology to solve supply chain management, inventory and asset accountability issues, but it takes a multitude of technologies to address the data capture needs of large manufacturing and assembly enterprises such as Boeing. The Aerospace industry is using passive RFID in a big way, but is also using active RFID and RTLS systems along with 2-D & Data-Matrix, barcode as well as other Auto-ID data capture technologies to enable everything from tools tracking to workflow process management and real-time inventory control to composite components tracking, across multi-million square foot facilities. They are even looking to extend this visibility over-the-road and to their supplier and manufacturer's facilities. RFID-enabling these processes yields significant improvements in workflow processing and efficiency. At Boeing, we have worked with our client on parts tracking, tools tracking, and inventory management of time and temperature-sensitive materials, among other applications. With the introduction of viable, accurate, and cost-effective real-time locating technology, we can now integrate passive, active zonal, and active RTLS technologies into comprehensive, value-generating solutions with high degrees of accuracy. At the same time, software has evolved, enabling RF technology to be more transparent to the end-user.

Louis: Joe, please tell us what RFID Global Solution was looking for in a CEO and what Diana Hage brings to the team.

Joe Leone: We were looking to replace the level of business experience and strategic insight that Bryan Nelson, our former CEO, brought to the team from Microsoft and WaveTrend. The ideal profile was an executive with big company business experience and an understanding of processes and procedures, who also had real insight into the rough and tumble world of the RFID market. Those were big shoes to fill. RFID Global Solution needed someone with solid business experience and a strong understanding of the dynamic world of the RFID industry. RFIDGS' executive team felt that the person who could best lead from the helm would be someone who had both skills in his/her repertoire. Ms. Hage's background at IBM in Wireless and RFID solutions, coupled with the broad experience she gained at ODIN technologies, and her experience with other companies in the Aerospace Industry such as Airbus, made her the perfect candidate for us. While our mission to find the right person to assume the leadership position at RFID Global Solution was very important, it was clear to me from the first conversation with Diana that she had all the qualities, characteristics, and experience to be a great CEO for a firm like ours. Entrusted with the decision-making process for RFIDGS and the Board, I looked at many other qualified candidates, but I was certain from our initial conversation that Ms. Hage would make a great fit for our team. Not only did she have a strong technical background, deep understanding of the wireless space, and great business knowledge and relationships in this market, she was a great cultural fit for our team with her strong focus on integrity, her customer-centric values, and her desire to build not only a company, but an industry.

Louis: What are some of the major challenges you foresee in 2009 and coming years ahead?

Ms. Hage: Some of the industry's major issues have been self-inflicted, such as excessive hype as the industry was getting underway, and too much focus on technology advancements instead of development of business solutions. Over-promising and under-delivering in technical performance and repeatable solutions; and fear, uncertainty and doubt relative to the economy. While many firms see the economic downturn as a hurdle to overcome, we see it as an enabler potentially driving more rapid adoption of RFID technology to reduce costs. Business value is achievable with RFID and is documented in numerous ROI examples in multiple industries. While adoption has slowed in some areas, it is beginning to pick up in others where value is being realized, such as the Aerospace, Defense, and Government industries, and asset management and IT security applications, just to name a few. Traditionally, much of this industry has been about trying to create valuation and not create customer value and satisfaction, and until the industry as a whole takes ownership for building lasting value and acts in lockstep with its customers, the promise of RFID will never be fully realized. In watching Savi over the last fifteen years, they have been one firm that has created a real, sustainable business in RFID. We aspire to build a firm along the Savi model, building value for our customers as well as our firm, and act as responsible stewards of the industry.

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