SI Outlook

Nichols Research grows IT business Nichols Research Corp. continued its winning ways last month when it captured one of four information technology services contracts awarded by the Army's Space and Strategic Defense Command. The indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contract could be worth as much as $649 million over five years. Other winners were Computer Sciences Corp. Mevatec and Teledyne Brown Engineering.

The program covers a wide range of IT activities including requirements definition integration and planning technology development assessment and planning program analysis evaluation and support and weapons-related services. The SETA contract capped an already successful year for Nichols which earlier had won two of four contracts under the Army's High-Performance Computing modernization program. Nichols of course has deep roots in the Defense Department high-technology market going back to its founding in 1979. For more than a decade the company specialized in weapons systems-related integration work mostly involving sensors and laser devices. In recent years the company has expanded to more mainstream integration activities and has been targeting other federal and state government agencies. While expanding its market the company has leveraged skills it developed in the DOD environment particularly in the area of high-speed computing which includes data processing and storage management.

Nichols' chief executive officer Chris Horgen believes this strategy has paid off well. "We've successfully evolved this market to where we are a major player and feel we can compete on any bid in any area " Horgen said. The company's success is having an impact on the bottom line as well. Nichols' revenue for its August-ended fiscal year increased to $242.3 million up from $170.3 million in 1995. The company expects similar growth for fiscal 1997 Horgen said. Despite its recent successes the company knows it needs more resources particularly personnel if it hopes to continue growing. As part of its 1997 financial projects Nichols has factored in the costs of acquiring a company sized at about $100 million or less Horgen said. Specifically the company is looking for IT services companies in the government market. Among other requirements Nichols would like to pick up about 500 people with network expertise Horgen said. "We need the [additional] people because we have a lot of opportunities to pursue."

* * * Integrators look to GSA schedules Federal integrators who have never owned a General Services Administration schedule are looking to sign up now that schedule possession has become a requirement for at least one services deal. The Navy's Information Technologies Support Services program estimated at $850 million calls for bidders to have a GSA Schedule 70 contract. Although such leading integrators as Electronic Data Systems Corp. and Litton/PRC Inc. have GSA schedules many other name-brand integrators do not. But that may be changing soon. Officials at Computer Sciences Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Data Systems and Services Division expressed willingness to apply for a GSA schedule if that remains a requirement to bid ITSS. "We are fully intending to bid ITSS and are taking necessary steps to become a qualified bidder " a Northop Grumman spokesman said. Industry executives said they believe GSA is being inundated with schedule applications. How long will integrators stand in line? Bill Gormley assistant commission for acquisition at GSA's Federal Supply Service said contracts can be awarded in three weeks although the time involved varies according to the quality of the offer.

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