By Alexandra Kicior
Bana Solutions was envisioned as a company that would proactively tackle various technology challenges by maximizing the potential of data and making it actionable. Since coming to fruition in 2014, the company has been committed to utilizing various business intelligence tools and data security practices to provide key patterns, trends, and insights for decision-makers, the general public, and our frontline defense forces in an increasingly data-driven world. AGS spoke with CEO of Bana Solutions, Ricky Berrios, who walked us through Bana’s technical expertise, deep policy insights drawn from company operations, and the contributions of his diverse team to the handling of geospatial data.
Ricky Berrios has always had a passion for community, education, and hard work, a combination which he attributes to his Puerto Rican heritage as well as the values instilled in him by his family. His study of engineering was instrumental in shaping his vision for leadership in federal contracting. Berrios has an impressive background in government consulting, defense contracting, and IT delivery, particularly through his decade-long tenure at Lockheed Martin. He combined this honed technical skillset with his drive for entrepreneurship to start Bana, which means “greatness” in the Indigenous language of Puerto Rico, Taino. Mr. Berrios realized that there existed a palpable gap in the market for providing technology solutions that would allow innovation to flourish within the realms of strong values and ethics. As he stated, “there was a need for smaller developers that understood large system innovation and could partner with the customer on the journey of determining the requirements of their solutions.” This personalized vision of accompanying clients on a journey toward greatness firmly established Bana’s unique place in the market.
With limited financial resources at the start, Mr. Berrios nonetheless leveraged his prior experience to create business plans, establish accounting systems, and set up an IT infrastructure that laid the foundation for Bana Solutions. He was also driven by the prospect of becoming a CEO of a small business, through which he would be able to successfully balance managing a company with his role as a husband and father of two. Berrios is comfortable with his decision to make family a priority in a way that does not implicate or interfere with his ability to run his company.
One of the core objectives of Bana Solutions is rooted in the pursuit of sustainable growth that leads to opportunity creation. In maximizing the potential of data for government agencies, it is crucial that the company ensures that data is both accessible for those who demand it while being safeguarded from those who shouldn’t have access to it. Bana Solutions is able to take on the challenge of creating holistic solutions for clients by focusing on three pivotal components: data storage and tagging, policy translation, and user attributes and entitlements. These processes involve efficiently and automatically storing data, leveraging specific policy guidelines every time data access decisions are made, and determining data access rights for each user.
Mr. Berrios is able to execute his role as a leader of a company largely due to the functioning of his diverse set of employees, who come from a wide array of technical and personal backgrounds. He proudly describes Bana employees as a “team of geeks” who all share a unique passion for national security and supporting the betterment of the government. Within Bana, Berrios notes that diversity is the magnet that brings the right skill sets together as a team in order to support the company’s mission. His team, for example, includes former airport pilots and firefighters. What is prioritized at Bana is the ability to learn quickly and continuously, as well as to be resourceful and mission-driven.
As a company that deals at-large with geospatial data, geographical practices are at the heart of its operations. Geography is about understanding and interpreting our world, and to do that, data processing and sharing is of paramount importance. The work being done at Bana focuses on creating a standardized mechanism to process and share geospatial data to relevant stakeholders, done in tandem with the client’s priorities. As Mr. Berrios notes, “the recent history of geography has picked up momentum through crowdsourcing… It’s an open field that people can contribute to. We’re constantly trying to think about bringing data security to GIS.” It is important to ensure data accuracy and security in a world overflowing with opensource geospatial data, and to ensure data privacy and protection of government geospatial data.
Geospatial technologies like Leaflet, PostGIS, ArcGIS, Google Earth, AWS, and GeoSerer are incorporated into the solutions Bana develops. In the company’s work, it is critical that the team tracks who receives a particular set of data, for what purpose, and for what reason. In doing so, Bana Solutions is able to prepare the data to be efficiently and safely used: “At the end of the day, we’re collecting data and organizing it, creating GIS datasets for our own mapping tools or somebody else’s mapping tools.”
Mr. Berrios notes that it is impossible to ignore trends – including current events, technological advancements, and new government regulations – in creating long-term plans. Because Bana supports the defense industrial base, any international conflict becomes a top priority that drives the market. Berrios expresses the difficulty that is associated with managing technical debt in partnering with government agencies and dealing with the inability to pass a budget as a nation. With regard to the GIS market, “recent advancements in large-language models for machine learning and the growing maturity of vector databases and what they mean for computer vision…that’s what we keep our eye on.” A significant amount of Bana’s investment is being directed to the use of newer algorithms into these technologies that the company supports. Bana hones in on the use of important datasets and considers how data is stored in data layers so that it can be better processed by the algorithms in a more efficient way. All of these factors must be considered in making key decisions.
Bana’s corporate culture of greatness underscores its expanding capabilities and the inspired solutions delivered by its diverse and high-performing teams. Mr. Berrios’ personal drive for greatness through his steady pursuit of education, his hard work in the technical and business aspects of his company, and his deeply rooted entrepreneurial drive are felt in Bana’s purpose and objectives. Bana makes sure data moves securely — so intelligence, defense, and civilian agencies can carry out their missions without compromise. Bana shines as a unique company that makes the geospatial data management process a personal journey with each and every client, striving for greatness in its protection of the American people.