10 organizations worth watching

FCW's 2006 Federal List looks at organizations that are influential in the government IT market.

This year, we have tweaked Federal Computer Week’s Federal List. For the past several years, FCW editors have selected hot companies. This year, we decided to look at organizations that are worth watching.

Some organizations made the list because they are hot. Others have been bellwethers of the government information technology market and face important turning points that reveal the market’s evolution. Some happen to be in the right place at the right time.

A few themes are consistent throughout the list. One is competition. Most of these organizations must deal with a government IT market that changes quickly. That has forced organizations — even successful ones — to remain nimble. Another theme is service. Many organizations are moving away from commodities to focus on services.

We hope this list spurs discussions about how this market has changed — for better or for worse.

10. Dell Computer
Chief executive officer: Kevin Rollins

www.dell.com

Why they matter: Competition is a principal theme of this list. The government IT market has become more competitive, perhaps more so than ever. Dell is an excellent example.

The PC giant, based in Austin, Texas, has been a power player in the government market for years. Unfortunately for Dell, when you are near the top, everyone is gunning for you.

The company has turned its lean direct-sales machine, which performed so well in the private sector, into a success in the government market. But times have changed, and Dell faces a more competitive environment in which many competitors have followed Dell’s lead. A direct-sales approach is less of a competitive differentiator than it was in years past.

Now Dell wants to enter the IT services business, which other companies on this list have also decided to do.

With those market pressures added to the laptop PC battery recall, one understands why BusinessWeek ran a recent article titled “Dark times for Dell.” The company, nevertheless, has a formidable market presence and a talented federal team that make the company worth watching.

9. PlatinumSolutions
Founders: Adam and Laila Rossi
www.platinumsolutions.com

Why they matter: In a time when everyone focuses on results, PlatinumSolutions has made successful projects a cornerstone of its business model. Adam and Laila Rossi, a husband-and-wife team, launched the 8(a) company in 1999 with $30,000. The company has served as an integrator on some projects and is building a reputation as a company that gets things done.

8. Project on Government Oversight
Executive director: Danielle Brian

www.pogo.org

Why they matter: This is one of the few organizations on this year’s Federal List. The Project on Government Oversight has been a vocal participant in a campaign to expand government procurement regulations. POGO is controversial. If you mention the name in the business community, you’ll get an earful. Even some of the group’s allies acknowledge that POGO can be shrill at times, but the group has been true to its cause.

POGO’s position is that government procurement activities are prone to waste, fraud and abuse. Several recent events reinforced that point of view, particularly the arrests and convictions of David Safavian, former chief of staff at the General Services Administration, and former Defense Department procurement official Darleen Druyun. People can debate whether POGO is a force for good, but few doubt that it has a voice.

7. Perot Systems
President of Perot Systems Government Services: Jim Ballard

www.perotsystems.com

Why they matter: Perot Systems, perhaps best-known because of its founder’s presidential runs, has been flying below the radar for some time. But the company has begun to make its presence known. Last year, it opened a new headquarters for its government division and started becoming a prominent player in the government IT market.

6. Acquisition Solutions
President: Anne Thomson Reed

www.acqsolinc.com

Why they matter: Many organizations talk about being partners with government, but Acquisition Solutions makes that relationship part of its culture. The company is at the forefront of government procurement because it helps agencies develop better acquisition methods and accomplish their missions more effectively.

5. Procentrix
Chief executive officer: Paul Brubaker

www.procentrixinc.com

Why they matter: Procentrix is a newcomer to the government IT market, but its management team isn’t. Brubaker helped write the rules on results. He worked as a staff member for then-Sen. William Cohen (R-Maine) to help craft the Clinger-Cohen Act, a major enabler of procurement reform in the 1990s. This year, with some colleagues from SI International, Brubaker formed Procentrix, a professional services company whose purpose is “driving measurable efficiencies into government performance.”

4. GTSI
Chief executive officer: Jim Leto

www.gtsi.com

Why they matter: GTSI may be the government IT equivalent of the canary in the coal mine. The company is a barometer for market changes. GTSI’s management team, now led by Jim Leto, recently shifted its focus from the reseller market to the more lucrative services business because the government IT market has shifted from low-margin commodity buys to integrated systems. Many eyes are on GTSI.

3. Microsoft
Chief executive officer: Steven Ballmer

www.microsoft.com

Why they matter: That software company based in the Pacific Northwest faces perhaps more competition now than at any other time in the company’s history. Nevertheless, Microsoft continues to be the big player. In 2007, Microsoft will introduce new versions of the Windows operating system and Office software suite, which will keep IT executives busy with upgrade planning.

2. Google
Chief executive officer: Eric Schmidt

www.google.com

Why they matter: Any company whose name becomes a verb is unmistakably influential. Google has changed the IT environment and sent everybody else scurrying. A decade ago, search technology was an afterthought. But today, people find just about everything online through search tools.

Google has influenced the government market. Earlier this year, Google bolstered its government search site and renamed it Google U.S. Government Search. Google’s innovative processes for getting new products to users have also altered how government develops IT systems. Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, recently credited Google with helping change how DISA manages software acquisition.

1. General Services Administration
Administrator: Lurita Doan

www.gsa.gov

Why they matter: Clearly the General Services Administration is not a company. But an important portion of GSA operates on a fee-for-service basis, which means that part of the organization must stay attuned to customers’ needs to be successful.

Few organizations are more important to the health of the government IT market than GSA. The agency buys for the rest of the government. And the agency’s importance has increased as agencies have reduced their procurement workforce.

But like many companies, GSA is in transition. After years of a leadership vacuum and spending the past year focused on a campaign of “getting it right,” GSA appeared to be teetering and about to fall earlier this year. But Doan, the agency’s new administrator, has breathed new life into the organization. GSA once again shows a sense of mission. Whether you agree or disagree with Doan, she has given GSA a renewed sense of purpose. She has people talking about GSA’s role in the government market.

Doan has also made some early decisions that have helped her. The most obvious is hiring Jim Williams as the new commissioner of the GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. Williams has been working to renew the organization’s customer focus.

It used to be said of the U.S. economy that as General Motors goes, so goes the country. It would be an exaggeration to say that as GSA goes, so goes the government IT market — but the agency is clearly a major player.

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