Compusearch Poised To Increase Web Presence

Compusearch Poised To Increase Web Presence

Henry Frain

By Cindy O'Hara, Contributing Writer

When it comes to ordering goods and services, Compusearch Software Systems Inc. is doing its best to alleviate bureaucratic headaches and red tape for government employees with the mere click of a button.

The McLean, Va.-based company, founded in 1983, sells procurement automation and electronic commerce software. Its original product, Federal Acquisition Regulations Automated (FARA), was designed to help agency officials assemble procurement-related documents.

Under new ownership since 1995, the company has transitioned that software from a DOS-based version to Windows, and it is taking steps to Web-enable that product, as well as its most current software, PRISM and EC Web. All of these combine to make up Compusearch's Virtual Procurement Office.

"We're moving everything over to the Web so that it eliminates the need for costly [on-site] infrastructure [configuration] before implementing the software," Henry Frain, president of Compusearch, told Washington Technology. "They [customers] can do everything over the Internet." The process is about 40 percent complete.

Based on feedback from customers, Compusearch implemented the requisitioning module of PRISM to the Web first, followed by the shipping and receiving portion of the software, both of which are up and running.

The next step, Frain said, is to go to an enhanced version of PRISM's ordering and buying capability. Finally, the company will Web-enable PRISM's contract management capability. The software should be completely Web-enabled by August 2000.

Until recently, Compusearch had concentrated solely on federal government contracts, but last March the company began changing its focus to include marketing its products at the state and local levels.

"The reception ... has been overwhelming," said Frain. "What they do at the federal, state and local levels is almost identical. That's why we're encouraged by the new marketplace."

With over 12,000 users in about 500 locations and posting record revenue for its fiscal year 1999 of just over $8 million, an increase of 50 percent from last year, Frain has good reason to be optimistic.

"We understand our niche ... and after winning 30 out of 34 contracts in a competitive environment, we have to be doing something right," he said.

To that end, Frain pointed to his staff, which has increased from 32 employees in 1995 to its current size of 55.

As a testament to the company's success, its customer base includes the Department of Justice, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Executive Office of the President, the Coast Guard and most recently the Social Security Administration. Frain said the company was just awarded a one-year contract with Social Security that is expected to bring in $330,000 in revenue.

But Compusearch is not the only company to offer automated procurement software. Competitors include American Management Systems Inc. in Fairfax, Va., CACI International Inc. in Arlington, Va., Procurement Automation Institute in Arlington, Va., and Integration Technologies Group in Falls Church, Va.

Frain, who previously was vice president of sales at General Analytics Corp., knows what it takes to stay one step ahead of the competition.

"We really have taken the approach that we provide a complete package, in terms of functionality and breadth of capability," he said. "That's what makes us different."

Customers like Maggie Pippin, procurement analyst for the program support center for the Department of Health and Human Services, agreed. Pippin said she started using EC Web, part of Compusearch's Virtual Procurement Office package, in July 1997 as an alternative to what was then the agency's procurement software, FACNet (Federal Acquisition Computer Network).

FACNet had been set up in 1994 under presidential mandate and was used as a single point of entry for all federal employees, Pippin said. While a good learning experience for electronic commerce, Pippin said, FACNet quickly was becoming a dinosaur in an evolving electronic world.

"The concept [of FACNet] was a good concept, but support was difficult, and the cost for vendors was high," she added.

So in 1995, Pippin's office acquired PRISM, the contract management portion of Compusearch's VPO, to automate the acquisition process, to receive bids and broadcast awards.

"We've found, in some cases, we're making awards, receiving quotes and requesting quotes in the same day," she said. Another appeal, said Pippin, is that vendors can access EC Web for next to nothing. "It's an easy process ... and that's a big benefit."

And these are the kind of satisfied reports Frain likes to hear about. Still, Frain is realistic about his goals, his competition and where he wants to go in the future.

"I think we literally will be worldwide ... I see us being in the Internet and aligned with players in the supply chain solutions," he said.

Frain said his company alone does not have the marketing strength to make it worldwide, but he said others do.

"Collectively, we [could] make a very solid across-the-board solution. We do procurement better than anybody else," he said. "Other people do finances, other people do human resources. ... and we want to be the procurement component of that solution."

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