Vredenburg Hopes Cyber Law Opens Door to Infotech Business

Vredenburg Hopes Cyber Law
Opens Door to Infotech Business

By Nick Wakeman
Staff Writer

A Reston, Va., company with a long history of helping the Navy manage its acquisition programs is looking to a cyber law to help launch its information technology business.

Vredenburg has provided program management and acquisition support to the Navy for 30 years, picking up some valuable skills in handling, cataloging and retrieving documents quickly, company executives said.

Laurance Den "We are looking for [organizations] whose business processes are constrained by paper and the movement of paper."
Laurance Den, Vredenburg
So when the Electronic Freedom of Information Act became law in October 1996, the company saw its best opportunity yet to leverage its roots into a new business, said Laurance Den, vice president of Vredenburg's new IT Group.

The privately held company, which pulled in about $21 million in revenue in 1997, established the IT Group in January to pull together the company's document management skills and pursue new business, Den said.

Most of last year's revenue came from work for the Navy, said Den, whose company was built on managing acquisition programs, mostly for weapons systems.

In 1998, the group likely will bring in about $3 million and grow between 30 percent and 50 percent annually, according to Den.

Under the Electronic Freedom of Information Act, all federal agencies must be able to process and respond to Freedom of Information requests for documents electronically.

The law also mandated the creation of electronic reading rooms at each agency. These rooms would be the place where frequently requested documents would be available.

The attraction for Vredenburg was a natural one.

"[Document management] was the service we provided our clients in the Navy," Den said.

Although the law set a deadline of November 1997 for compliance, no agency has completely met the requirements, said Patrice McDermott, a policy analyst with OMB Watch, a nonprofit group in Washington that monitors government activities.

A report by her group found that 44 out of 57 agencies surveyed had begun work on complying with the law, McDermott said.

Arleen Zank, an analyst with the Coronado Group, a Chevy Chase, Md., market research and consulting company, estimates that each Freedom of Information office will likely spend between $350,000 and $500,000 on hardware and software to comply with the law.

According to OMB Watch, there are at least 135 agency Freedom of Information offices to date.

Vredenburg's advantage is that it has developed a turnkey solution that most other integrators lack, Zank said.

Jorge Daiz
Jorge Diaz
"It is not a tool kit we are providing," said Jorge Diaz, Vredenburg's director of sales.

The company has partnered with software developer Highland Technologies Inc. of Lanham, Md., to create a package that addresses about 80 percent of the document management needs.

"We wanted a repeatable solution," Diaz said.

The other 20 percent Vredenburg customizes to meet individual agency needs, he said.

So far, the company is working on projects with the Navy and the Department of Energy.

Several intelligence agencies also are working with Vredenburg.

Even if all federal agencies comply with the new law in the next few years, serving their Freedom of Information offices will continue to be a good market, Zank said.

As getting information from the agencies becomes easier, the volume of requests goes up, she said.

"[And] we are seeing increasing complexity in the requests," she said.

The intelligence agencies are the keystone to a second market for Vredenburg created by another mandate, Diaz said.

In April 1995, President Clinton signed an executive order that stated documents more than 25 years old be declassified or the agency would have to state why the records should remain classified.

Vredenburg has installed some document management systems for intelligence agencies to handle the new workload, Diaz said.

The company also is targeting hospitals in the mid-Atlantic region, state and local governments and colleges and universities.

"We are looking for [organizations] whose business processes are constrained by paper and the movement of paper," Den said.

While Vredenburg is dwarfed in size by other systems integrators pursuing the same market, including CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va., and Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego, the company's size should not be a deterrent to success, Zank said.

Its software product is good, and the company has a good reputation for solving complex problems, she said. "I think they are poised to grow exponentially," Zank said.

Location: Reston, Va.
President & CEO: K.M. "Chick" Baboyian
Founded: 1968
Revenues: $21 million in 1997
No. of employees: 200-plus

Target Markets for Vredenburg IT Group
Federal Freedom of Information offices
Declassification projects at intelligence agencies
Hospitals in mid-Atlantic states
State and local governments
Colleges and universities

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