Unisys sets course within crowded services market

In hopes of standing out in a crowded systems integration marketplace Unisys Federal Systems Division is concentrating its information technology services business in its defined areas of core competency.

The McLean Va.-based unit of Unisys Corp. plans to emphasize three areas: network integration imaging and data warehousing/decision support. The company has already set the stage for expansion through recent contract awards and is forging alliances with product vendors to strengthen its position in each segment.The main point of the segmentation strategy is to help set the company apart from its rivals in the IT services business. In an era in which almost every integrator has a multiple-award contract vehicle differentiation has become a concern according to James F. McGuirk II president of Unisys Federal Systems. "You have to start defining what you are selling " McGuirk said. "We are defining our core competencies."

In network integration the company has representative contracts such as the Defense Finance and Accounting Service's $166 million DFAS Infrastructure Support Services pact and the recently awarded $185 million Intelligent Workstation/Local-Area Network (IWS/LAN) pact with the Social Security Administration. The 1995 DFAS pact calls for an enterprise LAN linking multiple DFAS offices while Unisys will install 1 700 LANs under IWS/LAN.

"Network integration capability is very critical to government as [agencies] get into distributed processing and information " McGuirk said.

Unisys is fleshing out its network thrust through alliances. In the federal market the company works with companies such as Cabletron Systems Inc. and 3Com Corp.

Similarly Unisys has contracts and vendor alliances to back its imaging and workflow management plans. The company earlier this summer captured a prime contract on the National Institutes of Health's ImageWorld multiple-award pact. Unisys' ImageWorld partners include Aspen Systems Corp. IDS/ScanAmerica Inc. Integrated Solutions Inc. GCG Computers Inc. and the University of Arizona.In data warehousing Unisys expects to leverage its installed base of large databases and experience in database consolidation projects McGuirk said. He said Unisys has been involved in database consolidation projects with the Air Force the Internal Revenue Service and General Services Administration. Once a database has been consolidated the next logical step is data mining and decision support he said.

As for Unisys' choice of technology strongholds "they've certainly picked out the hot technologies and applications " said Bob Dornan senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc.

Strategy Refined

Unisys' three-pronged technology approach is actually a refinement of a services strategy the company set into motion in the early 1990s. At that time about 30 percent of Unisys' revenue was in services and many of those were "product-oriented" services such as operating systems support McGuirk said. Today services represent 68 percent of Unisys' business.

Since 1990 Unisys has captured service-based contracts such as the Defense Enterprise Integration Services pact its successor (DEIS II) the Treasury Information Processing Support Services pact the Transportation Department's Information Technology Omnibus Procurement and most recently NIH's Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners program. All those contracts are multiple-award task-order vehicles.

Although McGuirk said he is pleased with Unisys' progress in services he is still looking for improvement. "We've done a good job of moving into services " he said but "we will need to have our services differentiated."

Most of the services Unisys provides today are "manpower" services in which it dispatches staff to support a given information technology project McGuirk said. The proliferation of multiple-award services deals however is threatening to make such body-shop services commodities. The answer is to find discriminators he said hence the company's push into network integration imaging and data warehousing.

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