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Interview With David Ferris, CEO, Sensible Systems

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An Interview With Our President, David Ferris— How His Experience Differentiates Sensible Systems From Other IT Service Companies

Q: David, can you please tell me how Sensible Systems was started?

A: I created Sensible Systems in 2001 in Denver to provide small and mid-sized business owners a key IT Partner who could proactively take care of their technology needs, while also offering a consulting service that provided guidance for their technology choices.

Q:   Please tell us about your own background.

A:   My background is quite lengthy, but important, because it’s one of the things that differentiates Sensible Systems from other IT service companies. I have a BS in Applied Physics, and worked for many years as an Electrical Engineer at Motorola, working on satellite communications projects, defense programs and semiconductor chip manufacturing. I acquired a good background designing highly reliable, complicated systems to use in outer space and other harsh environments.

I also spent many years taking that knowledge and working in the physics community building an electron-beam accelerator – a very advanced system. In that role I was, once again, designing microwave systems and writing software that controlled very complex parts of the electron-beam accelerator, and what we then called a real-time control system. The software had to respond very quickly, and I had to program things beyond an operating systems level—basically building device drivers that worked at a very low level in computer and electronic systems.

Over time, while still working at the accelerator facility, I started Sensible Systems on the East Coast, helping small businesses develop database systems, and grow their companies. After some time, I decided to fully enter the IT field and began consulting. After a number of years, I was asked to take a chief technology position with Keane, a global consulting company. I worked with chief information and executive officers in Fortune 1000 companies, providing advice on how to build out their network and application systems, and designing their systems “to go.”

The Internet was just starting to become popular with businesses. So we also worked to retrain their tech professionals. We reoriented mainframe and COBOL programmers so they could program the client-server systems we use today. I had a lot of experience working in larger enterprises and communicating advanced technical concepts to business leaders, helping them change their workforce to gain new skills as technology changed.

Eventually I wrote a book in the 2000 timeframe entitled “Building An Intelligent E-Business.” The goal of my book was to tell business leaders how they could leverage Internet technologies to help, not only push products to their customers, but also improve productivity and better manage their supply chains.

This led to my establishing Sensible Systems in Denver in 2001—taking my knowledge of building efficient, secure systems, and communicating technical concepts, while providing the same guidance and expertise I did as a highly paid consultant.

Q: What do you think is really important in a business relationship?

A: Honesty, communication and value are the most important things in a business relationship. If we can deliver all of these things, we will keep our clients informed about what we’re doing and how it benefits their business.

Q: How does your background in Physics give you a different perspective that helps you connect with your clients, and deliver the best results for them?

A: Whether I am working in a Physics arena doing research and development with PhDs trying to advance the state of science, and broaden the knowledge of our understanding of the universe—or I’m engaging in IT systems in potentially any industry, I understand how those businesses operate and what technologies best support their very unique needs. I can also take the technical side and translate that into costs, values related to efficiencies, and improvement topics that business leaders must absorb to make successful decisions.

Q: As a leader, how do you keep your team focused on the same values that you hold, and deliver the services that you aspire to?

A: When I initially engage with a new client, I take the responsibility for assessing their network and documenting what I find. We look at processes that they currently have in place. Initially, we don’t look to change things, but understand how technology works for them, and make sure it’s running smoothly. At that point we know what to do to move them forward.

Then we provide a dedicated IT Support Specialist for every client. As the IT Manager, I look at their situation and provide advice to manage their environment. Then I hand this over to their IT Support Specialist who engages with them on a day-to-day basis. My role as the IT Manager is to make sure I’m communicating with that Specialist, that they are doing their job, and to keep in touch with our client so everybody is on the same page. This way, we can be assured that we’re providing the quality our clients deserve.

Q: How have you changed your business practices over time to better serve your clients?

A: We don’t just provide services like IT security or email, but also the strategy clients need to make the best use of them. We have ramped up our IT security services due to today’s ever-evolving security threats. We provide policies that help their employees change, or be aware of their behavior, to promote IT security awareness.

We have several clients that function under a set of regulatory requirements—we’ve always provided IT security awareness for their employees. We’re more proactive than others as we’ve developed our own training materials. We’re looking to leverage this for our healthcare clients with HIPAA security requirements. Plus, we’ve expanded into the cloud arena, acting as a partner to protect their businesses from the ever-growing security threats.

Q: What kind of value do you want your clients to take away from the services you provide?

A: We want to help them lower the cost of IT-related expenses while improving IT services at the same time. We often replace their full-time IT personnel with our people who have more experience and up-to-date knowledge. When you look at what their full-time employee costs were compared to our remote and onsite combination of services, their savings are substantial.

We also provide savings on software and hardware costs through our vendor relationships. We’ve been able to provide competitive pricing, and wholesale-type pricing with savings that we pass on to our clients. We’re not looking to generate revenue as a reseller from selling servers or other products. We’re looking to have a service where we provide long-term benefits to our clients. Part of this includes our IT procurement services where we make sure to get the best pricing for our clients.

Q: What makes you enjoy getting up in the morning?

A: I’m a service-oriented person, so I love consulting with companies and helping them resolve their problems or improve their services. I’m motivated every day to help companies do better by providing them the expertise to keep running more productively, efficiently, securely, and reliably. If I can continue to help companies grow and prosper, then I know Sensible Systems will benefit—And when I say things like helping companies run more productively, I’m talking about:

  • Improving collaboration between their employees by implementing processes to improve their access to information.
  • Improving efficiencies of IT operations by reducing costs on computers, servers, IT-related items, and energy costs.
  • Improving their security by looking at processes and avoiding unhealthy behavior while conducting transactions on the Internet. We improve security on their workstations, systems and all the devices they use on a daily basis.
  • Improving reliability. When we improve the security of a system, it immediately impacts reliability.

Q: If you could choose a single word or phrase to describe Sensible Systems what would it be and why?

A: Impress. If we keep our clients impressed with the services delivered, they’ll be happy. And the only way they are going to stay impressed is if they get their money’s worth, and see that their systems are operating in a way that helps them succeed and be competitive.

Q: Why should members in your greater community turn to the team at Sensible Systems?

A: I only hire support specialists who have maturity and experience, and who are service oriented. Sensible Systems is a service-oriented organization, providing comprehensive IT support that actively helps companies in our community control their IT costs, improve employee productivity, lower risk related to external and internal threats, and help to develop IT policies that match their culture and size. We build good teams that benefit our clients and community.

Q: Where is Sensible Systems going in the future?

A: We’re beginning to change the way we deliver services across the board. I think we’ll see businesses continue to use on-premise systems to support their business processes, as well as hybrid cloud solutions. The way we engage with those technologies is going to be very important. As technologies change, we must change our processes.

As people become more disconnected we need to have processes and technologies in place that allow them, wherever they are, to have secure access to information. As more services migrate to the Internet, I believe there’s potential to lose connection more often and experience security issues. We need ways to circumvent this—What can a business do when they’ve lost connectivity to the Internet? How can they continue to function? I believe we’ll need to provide consultation and develop the policies and procedures to mitigate these issues.

My background, addressing and solving complicated scenarios, evaluating costs and value, and communicating strategies to business leaders, makes Sensible Systems stand out from other IT companies. These are the types of things that we want to be known for—not just fixing systems as they break and helping companies get their email back up and running—but helping companies make the decisions to develop the processes they need to grow, and that will make them stand out from their crowd.

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