PRC's Pomata: Acquisitions 'Part of Our Plans for the Future'

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PRC's Pomata: Acquisitions
'Part of Our Plans for the Future'

Q&A

PRC Inc. made a big splash as one of the early systems integrators to take part in the groundswell of consolidation among information technology companies.

Litton Industries Inc. of Woodland Hills, Calif., made PRC, a nearly $1-billion-a-year integrator, its first acquisition in April 1996 as the defense contractor tried to broaden its IT base.

Leonard Pomata, president of PRC since 1996, guided the integration and IT subsidiary through that union and has plotted a steady course for it in the evolving government marketplace. PRC elbowed its way into the General Services Administration schedule business, quadrupling those revenues over the 1996-1997 time frame.

Pomata spoke recently with Washington Technology staff writer Nick Wakeman about PRC's future strategy and what is on the horizon for government systems integrators.

WT: As consolidation continues in the government market, what lessons has PRC learned? Are acquisitions in PRC's future?

Pomata: Acquisitions are part of our plans for the future. We are looking for companies in the areas of IT outsourcing, criminal justice and health care and those that take us into new marketplaces - either through new customers or a technology.

As for lessons, don't buy revenue, but look for companies that fit into a core competency, technology or customer set.

WT: How has PRC adjusted to changes in the federal market, such as multiple award, governmentwide contracts and the explosion of the General Services Administration schedule?

Pomata: We recognized a couple of years ago we needed to be more customer focused. We had a number of different businesses that were dealing with similar or the same customers. We decided to organize along lines of customers with separate defense and civilian practices.

Customers all across the federal government want to buy on a more rapid basis. We married up the GSA schedule and our services with product contracts like the [Navy's] SuperMini and others. We can go in, design a concept and a solution, provide the services, sell the hardware and software and do the integration, just as if there was a single procurement.

WT: As the federal market tries to mimic the commercial market, what must integrators keep in mind?

Pomata: Commercial businesses have been more focused on looking at marketplaces and value chains. If there are four or five things you do to deliver a service to a customer, you need to break down those things and understand them. If you can't be world-class or get to world-class in all of those, you better find a partner that is or you aren't going to be successful in that line of business.

That is why we partner with a Netscape or a Hewlett-Packard. We try to partner with a number of different brand name companies, not because they are brand names but because they are leaders in what they do.

WT: Providing an integrated networking infrastructure to the government, especially to the Department of Defense, is a line of business you have said PRC is going to pursue. Why will this be an important market?

Pomata: All our customers are asking for ways of controlling their IT assets in a way that reduces their costs. So outsourcing is going to be a major part of the systems integration business.

The federal government is not only trying to commercialize its practices but wants solutions that are Web based. That is what we are trying to take into our Defense Integrated Infrastructure line of business.

Everybody is still concentrating on the two-tier client/server architecture, which is here to stay, but the next evolution is really to one that is three-tiered. Everything needs to be Web accessible. Our whole approach to the Defense Integrated Infrastructure is based on that set of principles.

WT: Why will a Web-based infrastructure be important in the government?

Pomata: It is just too costly to rebuild systems over and over. To deploy a system with 20,000 users in a conventional way and having a heavy-duty desktop is just too costly.

But you can have a $500 desktop that is Web enabled, and you can get 20,000 users accessing databases and applications for the same cost of 1,000 users with the traditional system. It is a cost-per-user issue.

That's why it is key to get Web-based technology, which gives you the ability to get users enterprisewide access to all your applications and data.

WT: So the network computer has a future in the government?

Pomata: The NC is the future of the government architecture, as well as the home and commercial architectures. But we will find that the NC will be different than we think of it today. What that is I don't know yet because the technology is changing, but it will probably be more robust.

The debate right now is over how much local storage it should have, but as storage costs drop, that will become a moot point. We want to get to a price point of $300 to $500 per NC.

WT: Any examples of how the NC can be used in the government?

Pomata: We are in the middle of deploying a network for fingerprint data for the FBI. As that system gets deployed, the fingerprint information needs to get to every local law enforcement official as far down as you can go, including the policeman in the car.

The only way you can do that is to have a very thin client and have a Web-accessible kind of technology.


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