Two vendors look for breakthrough in federal market

Several vendors offering products that focus on specific agency needs instead of wide-ranging solutions have entered the federal marketplace since the beginning of the year, and each is finding ways to tackle the problem of gaining awareness in a notoriously tough market.

Cognet Corp., which started out as part of systems integrator Dynalog Technologies Ltd., opened a federal office in January. The company's Cognet 3.0 product is an enhanced software distribution tool, which enables organizations to configure, distribute and install software across an enterprise from a central location.

Cognet's product performs only those basic functions, in contrast to larger systems management tools, such as Microsoft Corp.'s Systems Management Server, which includes asset management, network mapping and other features, Cognet officials said.

This specialization has allowed the company to develop additional features within software distribution, said Jay Lightfoot, newly named federal sector manager at Cognet. As a result, the company has achieved a much higher customer satisfaction rate for its installations than the industry standard, Lightfoot said. The Gartner Group, a Stamford, Conn., research and consulting firm, puts the industry standard at 18 percent.Seeing the additional functions, several agencies started coming to Cognet to install the company's solution to compliment systems management tools already in place. Realizing that its system usually works in conjunction with others, Cognet signed a partnership with federal reseller and integrator DLT Solutions Inc. to raise market awareness of Cognet and its product.

"It's another tool that we can use," said Craig Abod, vice president at DLT. "Some of our customers have needs that Cognet can answer very well."

The Cognet product will be incorporated into solutions DLT offers on its General Services Administration schedule contract. Cognet is confident that once people start using the product as part of those solutions, agencies also will start coming directly to them for business.

Charting a Vision

TimeVision Inc. is coming at the federal market from a slightly different angle. Rather than focus on a niche market, the company is bringing agencies an application that already has had wide use in the commercial market.

The company's product, OrgPublisher for Intranets, is an organizational charting system that can be integrated with an agency's human resources management system to automatically generate organizational charts for viewing on the Intranet or an intranet.

Organizational charts have long been one of the most tedious tasks for human resources offices, but they are important, especially today, when many federal agencies are undergoing major reorganizations, said Lois Melbourne, president of TimeVision.

"A lot of public organizations gave up printing their organizational charts because they were out of date before you got to the copy machine," she said.

But the charts not only help management keep track of what it going on in the agency, they also help keep morale up in a time of upheaval, Melbourne said, "because it's awful when you don't know where you fit anymore."

TimeVision, based in Irving, Texas, started hearing federal interest during the last year, after serving many large commercial customers—including Mobil Oil and Bayer Corp.—since 1994, Melbourne said. The military was one of the first sectors to show interest, because of the need to keep track of strict chains of command.

Last month the company attended a human resources trade show in Washington, D.C., and almost immediately was approached by several agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service. Just a few weeks later, TimeVision already is working with the IRS to bring in OrgPublisher to keep track of the massive reorganization at the agency, Melbourne said.

For an agency such as the IRS, which is facing many changes, "any type of automation is so desperately needed in that environment," said Patti Hagan-Poulis, a consultant at Watson Wyatt Worldwide, Dallas. "When one person moves, to be able to dynamically change the relationships and interdependencies [on the organizational chart]...has to be a time savings and a cost savings."

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