New firm wants to advise agencies on IT buys

Before agency officials buy technology products and services, they must analyze what they need. Entrepreneur Lynn Ann Casey wants to help them make those assessments and select the right technologies to invest their scarce resources.

She founded Arc Aspicio, a two-person start-up, last September to focus on border management programs that modernize customs and immigration processing. In targeting that market segment, she drew on her experience serving as the lead architect for Accenture's work on the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program for two years.

Her customers include large systems integrators. One is assessing technologies in preparing to bid on the Homeland Security Department's America's Shield Initiative, while another is doing similar assessments in planning to compete for e-Borders, an immigration modernization program in the United Kingdom. Casey is helping officials at both companies develop information technology solutions that the integrators will then propose to the government customers.

She plans to subcontract to integrators in some situations and work directly with federal agencies and foreign governments in others, she said. She also plans to bid as a prime contractor to agencies, but not for another six months to a year, she said.

For now, she has one full-time employee working as a business architect, and she's trying to recruit another senior-level employee. She also has alliances with other small businesses that do similar work, such as Arlington, Va.-based GlobalLink Trade Consulting, which specializes in customs and immigration consulting.

Casey poured her savings into the company, money she socked away while working 14 years as an IT specialist at Accenture. Venture capitalists interested in investing in the small firm have approached her, but she plans to wait at least 12 to 18 months before considering any deals.

"The government is not as experienced as it should be in buying technology," Casey said. "Sometimes they buy it for the sake of technology instead of modernizing business processes."

DHS officials are working to consolidate IT purchasing under the agencies combined to form the department. Agency officials will rely heavily on the IT Acquisition Center, a centralized system for making IT purchases that was launched last September. But agency officials struggle with IT purchases while the center forms.

"We're still buying things without the acquisition planning that we would like to see," said Dan McLaughlin, the center's acting director. "We would like to know what we're going to buy this year for next year."

"All of the systems integrators have, in many cases, people working closely in the government helping with tech issues," said Chip Mather, co-founder of Acquisition Solutions, which gives acquisition support to federal agencies. "There are a lot of folks out there doing this."

Anderson is a business writer in Arlington, Va. She can be reached at tania.anderson@verizon.net.

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