SRA puts emphasis on agility

SRA International Inc. looks like most other systems integrators in the federal market: SRA is profitable, it is considering making acquisitions and it's offering solutions for e-government.

But unlike most of its competitors, SRA — with nearly 2,000 employees and more than $300 million in annual revenues — doesn't want to be too big.

"Many of our competitors are uncomfortable in that environment," said Renny DiPentima, president of SRA's consulting and systems integration unit. "We are very comfortable there. We are big enough to address their problems but also small enough to bring them to the president of the company."

About 95 percent of SRA's business is in government. Although SRA started out 23 years ago doing special studies, it switched its focus to full life-cycle systems planning, development and integration in the mid-1980s.

The company is a prime contractor on such large vehicles as the National Institutes of Health's Chief Information Officers Solutions and Partners II and the General Services Administration's Millennia and Millennia Lite contracts. Although its business is growing at a rate of about 20 percent a year, DiPentima said SRA wants to remain at a size where it is agile enough to respond quickly to customers and to pursue large governmentwide contracts.

Even with that growth, SRA does not aspire to be a public company, DiPentima said. "We would go public when it is to our best advantage to raise money and use it for a wise investment," he said. "Right now, we have our own sources of capital."

Despite its plans to stay private, SRA acts like a public firm. It produces annual reports and updates its share price for investors and employees. However, remaining private enables SRA to manage its plans with a longer perspective and avoid the "hula-hoop, CB-radio mentality," DiPentima said.

SRA doesn't follow every IT fad as a potential business, but looks for the ones with long-term possibilities, such as bioinformatics, he said.

As it considers at least two potential acquisitions, the company is likely to enhance its government intelligence, defense IT or health business offerings. SRA would buy companies in the $5 million to $35 million range, DiPentima said. In the past, SRA has grown mostly internally, with only a small acquisition about five years ago, he said.

"We don't do acquisitions for revenue or as part of some sort of roll-up strategy," he said. "We are looking for companies that have a customer base we don't have now or who complement our strategy and culture."

SRA's consulting and systems integration unit brings together government and commercial work, including mail systems, financial services and enterprise systems management.

The other 5 percent to 10 percent of the company is a new ventures division that incubates ideas that SRA could spin off into new companies, primarily in the commercial sector. With the commercial sector slowing down, government is probably the strongest part of SRA's business, DiPentima said.

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