WorkSmart Breaks New Ground in Total Solutions Field

The company has added USF&ampG to its list of customers and is targeting federal systems integrators

WorkSmart Inc., a Chantilly, Va., company offering product developers, service companies and systems integrators a new twist on total solutions, has signed up USF&G of Baltimore as its latest customer.

The deal, which is potentially worth half a million dollars, gives USF&G access to WorkSmart's 20,000-square-foot test facility in Chantilly and its technical expertise.

"We are providing both our people and our facility to help them define requirements and re-engineer their processes, and then we'll build some prototypes for some new, internal programs they are developing for claims processing," says Thomas Magazzine, the president and CEO of WorkSmart.

WorkSmart's Total Solutions Center, which includes a testing lab, training center and presentation room, allows companies to test document management and imaging technology solutions before installing them at a customer's site. Work tables are equipped with filtered power, network connectivity and an external ISDN connection.

Magazzine, who founded GTE Vantage Solutions in 1990, bought the facility from GTE and started WorkSmart in March. About a dozen GTE officials came with him. Magazzine says these employees average 14 years of experience in client-server solutions.

Magazzine has more than 25 years of experience in information management, including 19 years with the Business Products Division of Xerox Corp.

WorkSmart provides services such as business process analysis, technology application briefings, design, component and system testing, system training, logistics support and system integration.

The test center features equipment and software from leading vendors, and Work-Smart has agreements with product and service companies to install their equipment, as well. "There is no one else out there offering what we have," Magazzine said.

Traditionally in this business, people offer competency centers for their clients, said Norman Berthaut, a government market analyst with Input of Vienna, Va. Providing services for the vendors to come in and do the testing themselves and offering other technical services could appeal to small and medium-sized companies that might lack the facilities needed to test their solutions, as well as larger companies whose main branches are elsewhere, he said.

The idea of getting people in the door to use the integration facility and selling additional technical services "is clever and may be unique. If there are companies doing that, I don't think they are around here," Berthaut said.

WorkSmart's concept is to bridge the gap between a range of product and service companies and users who want a total solution, Magazzine said. USF&G officials liked the idea of going to a separate center where they could build prototypes ahead of time, Magazzine said. This environment fosters creativity and teamwork and lessens distractions.

Other clients include Pitney Bowes Management Services in Stamford, Conn., a deal worth "well in excess of one million," Magazzine said. The service company was "looking for a partner to offer their customers a total solution for managing digital information," Magazzine said.

Ernst & Young Technologies, a systems integration company in Chantilly, is another WorkSmart client. The company wanted to integrate and pre-build its solutions before they shipped them to a customer, Magazzine said. WorkSmart is also working with Objective Communications, an early stage multimedia company that is using the Chantilly facility for systems testing and integration. The company is designing a whole new system for desktop videoconferencing and desktop video on demand, Magazzine said.

WorkSmart also hopes to attract federal systems integrators. "They are one of my targets," he said, adding that he is in discussions with several companies in that marketplace but has not closed any deals yet.

Since March, WorkSmart's revenues have reached about $1.5 million. Magazzine estimates that WorkSmart's annual revenues will reach $20 million in the next five years.

WorkSmart charges a base rate of $5,000 to $10,000 per month to use its facility. Additional services are available on an a la carte basis. The fees could jump to as high as $150,000 per month for companies with 10 rows of integration tables that also use a lot of WorkSmart's technical staff.

Magazzine noted that WorkSmart makes its money by providing the people and the services. "I'm really not in the space business but the professional services business," he said.

The seeds for the company were sown when Magazzine saw a void in the marketplace. "The end user customer kept saying, 'We want a total solution.' Corporation's kept saying, 'We want to sell our service, our product.' We had this state-of-the-art facility and experienced people in dealing with these client-server solutions. We figured, let them buy that as sort of an a la carte service. We could fill a nice void in the marketplace."

Business is progressing so well that Magazzine is already thinking about putting another facility on the West Coast. Farther down the road, he said, would be a facility in the Midwest. WorkSmart has also received interest from international companies that want to establish a presence in the U.S. market, Magazzine said.

"In most cases, most people recognize that this is the kind of facility you need to do this type of work, but they don't want to spend the $5 million to do it," Magazzine said.

Magazzine said his facility has the capacity to take on about a dozen partners. The work of all companies tends to have peaks and valleys, he said, enabling WorkSmart to vary its mix of clients.

WorkSmart's initial target for its customer mix included service and product companies, big corporations and companies that write their own software. The company's current client roster includes all of the above.

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