Companies make first Alliant moves
Contract winners set out to capture market share
Anne Altman, managing director of IBM Federal
"As we emerge and evolve into a much stronger, mature player, Alliant will be a critical component of our overall strategy."? Shiv Krishnan, Indus Corp.
The dust has settled on the announcement of the Alliant awards, and the 29 companies that will be part of the massive information technology services contract are taking their first steps toward using it.
The contract could span 10 years and be worth as much as $50 billion. The General Services Administration set a five-year base period with one optional five-year extension. Alliant, and a companion small-business contract that GSA will award later this year, will ultimately replace at least two other governmentwide acquisition contracts.
Those two are Millennia and the oddly named Applications'N Support for Widely-diverse End-user Requirements (ANSWER) contracts, said Jim Ghiloni, GSA's Alliant program manager. A third GWAC, called Millennia Lite, may eventually be subsumed into Alliant as well, he added.
GSA will support the contracts until they expire ? ANSWER in December 2008 and Millennia in April 2009 ? so current customers can continue to use them as they gradually move their business to Alliant or to other contracts. "We don't want to shut them down prematurely," Ghiloni said. "We don't think that's fair to customers who enjoy using them."
Some federal contracting analysts said they were surprised at some of GSA's choices.
"I saw some big companies on there whose performance I thought was not stellar, who won, and I saw some midsized that I thought had some good performance that lost," said Bob Woods, president of Topside Consulting. "It makes me wonder how much past performance meant."ITS shapes strategy
ITS Corp., now a subsidiary of QinetiQ North America, plans to build on its long-established relationship with GSA as it shapes its strategy around Alliant, said John Gregorits, vice president of the IT Services Group and Alliant program manager.
"We've been planning for it. We're pretty well prepared," he said. "It really is a cornerstone for our contract portfolio."
ITS, based in Oxnard, Calif., is on both ANSWER and Millennia Lite, so the company is well-positioned to use Alliant, he said. GWACs are a valuable tool for any integrator, especially smaller ones, he added.
Like some other Alliant winners, ITS has a dual education task ahead, Gregorits said. The company must make its project managers and directors aware of Alliant's offerings and also talk to customers about the contract's potential.
"You have to make things easy for them to understand what's the best use of the vehicle," he said. "We try to provide our clients with the best solution for them. We're not trying to push a particular vehicle on them."IBM gets a GWAC spot
IBM Corp. is an Alliant winner that stands in stark contrast to ITS. IBM is larger, more powerful and better known worldwide. On the other hand, IBM is not on the ANSWER contract or either Millennia vehicle, meaning the company has been kept out of the running for work through those contracts, said Anne Altman, managing director of IBM Federal.
"For IBM, [Alliant] is particularly important," she said. "This is a pursuit that we have been committed to and excited about for several years."
The company, based in Armonk, N.Y., has maintained a healthy level of federal business ? it ranks No. 18 on Washington Technology's 2007 list of the Top 100 federal contractors ? but not being on other GWACs is a serious handicap, Altman said.
"It has been difficult," she said. "These contract vehicles have grown enormously and [generated] a great deal of opportunity that IBM has not been able to respond to."
The company, and its team of partners, is well positioned to earn task orders through Alliant, she added. "Alliant is really in the sweet spot of what IBM brings to the market."AT&T: More than network's provider
AT&T Government Solutions has a branding problem with Alliant. Widely recognized as a leader in telecommunications and network technology, the company also has thriving but less well-known IT and software engineering businesses, said John Klebonis, vice president of professional services.
"We do software engineering work, and we provide services around IT," he said. "Our biggest challenge is letting customers know that we do these services. When people think of AT&T, they think of large networks."
The company emphasizes its ability to do both IT and network services work, he said. "Almost everything being done relies on the network in some way."
AT&T recently earned a position on the two Networx contracts, GSA's sweeping telecommuncations services vehicle. Klebonis sees Networx and Alliant as complementary.
"We look at it as, if we want to be a full-service provider and integrator, it made sense for us to go after both of those," he said.
AT&T Government Solutions is based in Vienna, Va., while parent AT&T Inc. has its headquarters in San Antonio.Caught in the middle
Indus Corp., of Vienna, Va., sees Alliant as a key component of its growth strategy. A midsize firm, Indus has lost its eligibility for small-business incentives but has not yet gained the deep pockets of major corporations, said Shiv Krishnan, the company's president and chief executive officer.
Indus' annual revenues are close to $100 million, and Krishnan's vision is that it will grow to a $300 million company in about five years.
"As we emerge and evolve into a much stronger, mature player, Alliant will be a critical component of our overall strategy," he said.Educating the front lines
At General Dynamics Corp., the first order of business is ensuring that all of the front-line business developers and line managers are aware of the contract and are prepared to talk about it with customers. They are the people who will be most involved in keeping the business flowing, said Mike McHugh, the Falls Church, Va., company's program manager for Alliant.
"At the same time, we're very familiar with GWACs, and we're making sure we're aligning this through our GWAC Center," he said.
Many of the competitors General Dynamics will face are long-time rivals on the ANSWER contract, he said. "Some of them we've been competing against for the last eight years. But it's a bigger field. They are all companies that are good at what they do."Associate Editor Michael Hardy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.