Sprint Government Systems Unit Gets Make Over

Sprint Government Systems Unit Gets Make Over<@VM>Sprint Corp.

Tony D'Agata

By Jennifer Freer

Anthony D'Agata, vice president and general manager of Sprint Corp.'s Government Systems Division, Herndon, Va., is making good on his goal to create a new government business development structure.

D'Agata, 52, who joined the Westwood, Kan.-based telecommunications company in November 1999, recently named Mike Ligas as the director of business development for the Government Systems Division. D'Agata plans to assemble a new business development team of 40 to 50 people by March.

Sprint's government systems unit has grown to over a half-billion dollar business, and the company is projecting double-digit growth this year, said D'Agata, a former vice president of marketing and business development for Bell Atlantic Corp.

While the government unit's share of Sprint's $19.9 billion in 1999 net operating revenue is relatively small, the business is important strategically because of the federal government's leadership in adopting leading-edge technologies, D'Agata said.

D'Agata discussed Sprint's strategy for winning more government business and planned trials of its converged network service that integrates voice and data over a single connection in an interview with Washington Technology Staff Writer Jennifer Freer.

WT: What are your goals for Sprint's government division?

D'Agata: I want to build our business development competencies to help us be more proficient in pursuing various program opportunities. What we want to do is change our government business development structure.
I will set up a group that concentrates on new business development to determine what customers are looking for, and have managers stay with each client through the process. It is a major change for us, and it can reap benefits for the division.
[Also] we want to delight our customers. A major part [of that] will be to implement the FTS2001 network in accordance with the desires of the General Services Administration and the agencies that have selected Sprint as their FTS2001 provider.
We have completed about one-third of the total circuit transitions for FTS2001. Each month our run rate has increased, and the pace of transition is progressing quite well.

WT: How does your recent business development appointment play into the new business development practice?

D'Agata: Mike Ligas' appointment is the first step toward building that business development practice. We expect Mike's organization to encompass 40 to 50 teammates. We will build this team from both reassignments from within Sprint and new hires. We hope to have them all on board by the end of March.

WT: How will this structure benefit your unit, and what areas of new business will it pursue?

D'Agata: Straight government transport opportunities are limited. So our new team will help us pursue business in areas such as systems integration, network integration, professional services, e-commerce, call centers and network management that are ancillary to our transport business.
We should be able to develop processes that can improve our efficiencies and effectiveness. In light of the fact that government procurement cycles are so lengthy, I look at the new group as more of a long-term investment, as a way of ensuring long-term growth for the unit.

WT: What areas are you focusing on now?

D'Agata: Our traditional business is voice, data and video transport. By getting into the other areas I mentioned, we can complement our traditional transport business. We can help create a relationship with our customers such that they can count on us for their total communications needs, even if we need to bring in a partner to complete the package.
The whole idea of converged networks is one area. Agencies that have multiple networks want to consolidate those. Sprint is offering Integrated On-Demand Network (ION) service. We are ahead of our competitors with this type of converged network.
We are looking to conduct a couple of Sprint ION trials for government customers in the third or fourth quarter of this year, with general deployment in 2001. A number of our customers already have expressed interest.

WT: What trends are you watching in the government sector as you pursue new business?

D'Agata: There is a continuous move toward omnibus types of contracts. Telecommunication companies need to offer a broad spectrum of communication services to the government. Companies will have to provide the network, manage the network and, in some cases, even provide the computers to the government agencies.

WT: What are some examples of this type of contract?

D'Agata: The Navy/Marine Corps Intranet contract that should be awarded this summer, worth $2 billion to $10 billion, is a large contract that requires teaming. [Sprint Corp. is on a team led by General Dynamics that is competing for this project against teams led by Computer Sciences Corp., Electronic Data Systems Corp., and IBM]. It's rare to have one team do it all, so the theory is to bring multiple players together to address customers requirements.

WT: What will be Sprint's role for that effort, and how big a win would it be for your unit?

D'Agata: It would be a significant win in that it's potentially a multibillion dollar opportunity for Sprint. Our primary role is to offer on-demand, wide area transport services for voice, video and data.

WT: How has the FTS2000 win helped Sprint's business?

D'Agata: Under FTS2000, we had 25 percent of the [federal telecommunications] market share. [Sprint and AT&T Corp. held contracts worth $4 billion for the FTS2000 effort, which ran for 10 years beginning in 1988 with an extension granted until December 1999.] With the FTS2001 contract, we now have 50 percent of the market share.

WT: How will the pending MCI WorldCom-Sprint merger affect the FTS2001 contracts held by each company?

D'Agata: We don't see an immediate impact. The contracts probably will stay separate for awhile. The prices for the agencies are significantly lower for the FTS2001 than for FTS2000.

As time progresses, the prices get even better. Sprint and MCI will have separate networks for at least a few years after the merger, so there is no need to change the contracts until then.

WT: How will the merger benefit government customers?

D'Agata: Sprint is strong in data communications; MCI has a better reach across the country. Sprint has a better PCS network than MCI. When you combine the power of both networks with the strength of the individual offerings, it will be strong. Business: Best known for being the third largest long-distance company in the United States. The company also offers local telephone service, cellular and Internet service, equipment service and directory publishing.

Chairman and CEO: William Esrey

Headquarters: Westwood, Kan.

Employees: 64,900

1999 NET OPERATING Revenue: $19.9 billion

1999 Net Earnings: $1.57 billion

Ticker: FON on New York Stock Exchange

Web Site: www.sprint.com

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