AT&T's numbers emphasize commitment to small business
- By Gary Arlen
- Nov 03, 2005
"Because technology keeps changing, and the government changes contracts, you have to keep finding companies that can move with the changes."
Bill Polizos, director, small-business program
AT&T Government Solutions underscored its commitment to small-business partnering when it tapped 30 such companies for its team chasing the gargantuan Networx telecommunications contracts.
While the government unit of AT&T Corp. and its three rivals await a decision next summer on the 10-year, $20 billion Networx contracts, the company continues to recruit small businesses with specialties that complement AT&T's skills on an array of other contracts.
"I do a lot of research to find companies that have unique offerings," said Bill Polizos, who since 2002 has headed the AT&T Government Solutions small-business program. "Because technology keeps changing, and the government changes contracts, you have to keep finding companies that can move with the changes."
Small-business partnerships are crucial elements in keeping pace, Polizos said, because "most of the innovations come from small businesses."
Polizos said he uses a database with hundreds of names to match potential partners for projects "based on their offerings, categories, business and government relationships and past performance."
Its roster of defense and civilian projects puts AT&T at No. 31 on Washington Technology' s 2005 Top 100 list of federal prime IT contractors.
AT&T projects in which a small company is likely to join the team involve work in systems engineering, network management, call center operations, help desk, database development, security engineering, information assurance, knowledge management, enterprise architecture, modeling and simulation, and satellite communications.
Polizos' role straddles several AT&T Government Solutions departments, including sales, purchasing, subcontracting and contracts and finance. With corporate encouragement, AT&T's small-business program has taken on a business development role. Polizos reports to the vice president of federal sales, putting even more focus on building small-business relationships in auditable programs as well as on future growth.
High on Polizos' checklist for potential partners: Companies with a track record of winning contracts on their own, and companies that have relationships with AT&T customers.
Of the hundreds of names in Polizos' database, about 100 are companies that are or recently have been AT&T partners. Although he frequently returns to the same companies, Polizos said that AT&T gives preference to protégé companies. He is always on the lookout for new companies to add to the protégé program, he said.
"We're constantly building our database with names of potential small-business partners," Polizos said.
The small-business section of AT&T's Web site offers information about upcoming projects, allowing prospective team members to register.
Between five and 10 queries arrive daily via the Web site. Polizos also trolls the Defense Department's Central Contractor Registration site daily in search of potential partners.
"I open it in the morning and keep it open all day," he said. "It gives me an objective view of a company."
Small businesses need to keep their CCR profiles, including a list of their capabilities, up to date, Polizos said.
"I'm always very surprised when I go into the site and find that it is incomplete," he said.
"Sometimes I see companies that I know have past performance, but it's not complete."
Past performance is so important that Polizos does location visits and checks references at companies that have worked with prospective partners.
AT&T seeks to bring partners onto the team as early in the process as possible. For large procurements, AT&T looks for opportunities "years before it comes out," Polizos said. "We make sure we have a strong team in place before the bid is made."
For projects with a particular technical need, the company checks its roster of small-business partners to see if there is a fit. If there is a small-business requirement, Polizos determines which is the most appropriate category such as disadvantaged, woman-owned, HUBzone or service-disabled vet.
To find small-business partners, AT&T periodically holds Small Business Industry Days. A recent half-day event in Arlington, Va., attracted about 200 people. They heard from AT&T sales and marketing personnel as well as defense and civilian customers about projects that may need small-business alliances. AT&T also attends events such as the Army and Navy small-business fairs and the Minority Enterprise Development Week.
While it awaits the Networx decision, AT&T and its small-business partners are working on a number of projects.
Under a five-year contact awarded in September, AT&T is running a project to provide intelligence processing, analysis, reporting and archiving for the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The company is using HUBZone, Native American and 8(a) companies on its team.
The same is true for its work on the Army's One Tactical Engagement Simulation System project.
AT&T's commitment to small business also is seen in its numbers. Small businesses hold 53.5 percent of AT&T's subcontracts.
One poorly represented category is small companies owned by service-disabled veterans. Only 1.3 percent of the subcontracts went to such companies. That is below Polizos target, but it is a number that he said would increase.Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications Inc., a Bethesda, Md., research firm. His e-mail address is GaryArlen@columnist.com.