Integrator Partners: A Line to Success
Integrator Partners: A Line to Success
By Heather Hayes
Walk into any site run by Anteon Corp., and you'll find just about everyone outfitted with lapel pins that state simply: "Team." Though employees of Anteon partners do not always choose to wear that particular accessory, the team culture extends to them as well.
Anteon's aggressive acquisition strategy, coupled with its strong reliance on its partners, has helped the Fairfax, Va.-based systems integrator grow 1000 percent since 1993. And its expansion is only likely to increase, as Anteon recently has accelerated its activities in both the acquisition and partnering arenas.
In the past year and a half, for example, Anteon bought:
?Techmatics Inc., a $70 million professional services firm specializing in strategic planning and operations, systems acquisition and life-cycle management, systems engineering, systems integration and material management.
?Analysis and Technology Inc., a $170 million company providing interactive multimedia training systems and a full spectrum of engineering and information technology services to both government and commercial customers.
Anteon specializes in information technology, systems engineering, technology management and logistics modernization services for both government and commercial customers. With these two acquisitions, though, its overall revenue jumped from $176 million in 1997 to an estimated $480 million in 1999.
According to Mike Cogburn, executive vice president and chief operating officer, the company expects to add $20 million to $40 million in revenue in 2000, barring any new acquisitions.
For Anteon, acquisitions and its partnering efforts go hand and hand.
"Anteon's recent acquisitions have diversified our customer and technical base and enhanced our ability to form partnerships and pursue new lines of business," Cogburn said. "And we truly try to partner as much as we can for bigger and better jobs. That has especially been true as we try to expand into more specialized areas where we want to gain that capability."
This attitude has led Anteon to partner with companies big and small. They include Oracle Corp. for the Federal Emergency Management Administration's National Emergency Management Information System (NEMIS), and six companies Anteon works with in a mentor-protégé program.
The key to being selected as an Anteon partner is high-quality products and services, but also like-minded marketing strategies and business practices and similar cultural attributes, including that ever-present sense of teamwork.
"When you work with Anteon, you never feel like the hired help," said Brad Sachar, a practice director for Oracle Corp., Redwood Shores, Calif. "On the NEMIS contract, you could never tell who was Anteon and who was Oracle just by walking around. They made us feel that we were all in this together, and that attitude, from the beginning, helped us form a strong partnership."
This likely made all the difference on NEMIS, a complicated, $70 million contract that required Anteon to integrate legacy systems and apply new functionality to an emergency management system that is increasingly called upon to deal with a growing spate of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, mudslides and earthquakes.
One of the biggest challenges was to develop a distributed database environment, whereby local offices could continue to have site independence while the agency had centralized access to enable it to produce consolidated disaster and financial reports in a timely manner.
Jeff Flading, project manager for NEMIS, said that his architecture team almost immediately decided on Oracle because the replication capabilities of the Oracle 8 database appeared best suited for the job at hand.
But there were additional reasons for selecting the venerable software giant, not the least of which was that the two companies have a long history of working together.
Currently, Anteon and Oracle are partnering on projects at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Defense Department, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
The two also have similar work ethics, a fact that has caused many an employee at the two firms to swap out: Anteon's group vice president for business development is a former Oracle employee, for example, as is its vice president for product application group; several Oracle employees used to hang their hats at Anteon.
"Some of our business practices, our marketing techniques and particularly our emphasis on quality are very similar," Cogburn said. "They understand our culture and we understand theirs, and that really facilitates a very close relationship."
Anteon also is a leading reseller of Oracle products; in fact, the business represents Anteon's biggest growth area. Not only does the systems integrator administer a blanket purchase agreement stocked with Oracle products for Coast Guard users, but its revenue from overall sales of Oracle products has jumped from $7 million three years ago to an expected $60 million this year.
Anteon also plans a strong foray into commercial markets by offering specialized Oracle training on nights and weekends for students looking to move into the technology industry.
On the NEMIS contract, the partnership took another step in its evolution when Sachar, then a practice manager overseeing FEMA customers, decided the new contract was so important, he became technical manager and joined the project full-time.
"We realized this was going to be a project that would showcase Oracle's replication and distributed technology, and we wanted to make sure that the project was successful," he said.
Anteon, which was responsible for building the overall infrastructure and architecture, assigned its own employees as project leads for each of the functional areas, except for the database area. For that, Sachar was named to the leadership position, giving him authority over all technical aspects of the database within the overall team and an interaction role with the other functional leads.
"We suddenly had a very senior technical manager who not only provided insight into the database questions and complexities that a person simply trained in Oracle could not, but his business management experience allowed him to interact very effectively with the FEMA customer," Flading said. "That's important, because FEMA customers can be very demanding. And when they're in disaster operations, it helps to reassure them that we have the best people on board."
Sachar said: "As the Database lead, I found that decisions could be made in a much more rapid fashion, because there was a direct line of communication between me and the program manager at Anteon. As a result, we were able to get issues taken care of immediately. And because I had both the technical and business experience, I could make the calls as far as the hard technical decisions, but still keep track of the project plans and keep everything on schedule. All of this taken together really added to our relationship with the customer."
He said the arrangement was so successful, Oracle has asked its consulting groups to consider devoting high-level technical managers to work full-time on projects of similar complexity. Anteon also may require such a commitment from other partners.
In June, the team completed the second version of the NEMIS project, which now ranks as one of the country's largest implementations of an Oracle database in a Windows NT environment. In the meantime, Oracle and Anteon head into the second phase of the project, which includes maintaining the system, looking into new technologies and adding functionality.
At this point, Sachar has returned to being a practice leader, though a new senior technical manager is expected to come on board shortly.
When Anteon acquired Techmatics last summer, it also acquired a new project to which it has since become devoted: mentoring. Not only did the company embrace Techmatics' four young protégés that had been taken on under a Defense Information Systems Agency mentor-protégé contract, but it decided to set up a formal mentor-protégé program to be headed up by Scott Ulvi, a former Techmatics employee. Ulvi now reports directly to the chief operating officer on the progress of Anteon's young students.
In May, Anteon adopted two more protégés. They will complement a segment of its product line that focuses on high-power laser energy under a $1 million Air Force mentor-protégé contract to help small, disadvantaged and 8(a) firms learn more about fulfilling larger, more complicated Defense Department contracts.
The two companies are Fiore Industries, an Albuquerque, N.M., firm specializing in high-power microwave direct energy; and Dayton Systems Inc., an engineering design company in Ohio that specializes in laser product development.
Ulvi said Anteon took the small companies under its wing for several reasons, not the least of which is to be a good corporate citizen, especially now that it has reached the realm of large company.
"It gives us an opportunity to share all that we've learned on our way up the ladder," he said, adding it also improves the firm's relationship with the Defense Department, which is eager to develop small business vendors that can provide complicated technology solutions.
"More importantly, we're able to get to know these firms much more intimately than we are our other business partners," Ulvi said. "We spend a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to understand their strategic goals, their business objectives, how they are structured and what their developmental needs are in the program."
Since May, Anteon has begun schooling DaySys and Fiore in the finer points of growing into a bigger business, performing an exhaustive internal evaluation and then providing one-on-one mentoring in finance, accounting, infrastructure and technology transfer, and individualized support in the areas where the companies have the highest needs.
Fiore, for example, has a reasonably strong administration but is slightly weak in the finance area, mainly because much of its work has been spent in the commercial world and on narrowly focused government contracts.
"We're trying to help [Fiore] understand how to set up different cost centers, how to bring up productivity rates and how to become more profitable by applying our internal finance managers and accountants to work with them on a plan that will allow them to get to the point where they need to be in order to service the customer better," Ulvi said.
"We also sat down with them to come up with a strategic business plan, and part of that plan is to take their business, which is currently 80 percent engineering and research and development and 20 percent information technology services, and try to balance it out."
The aid already is helping Fiore. Anteon and Fiore have partnered to provide high-end Oracle skills to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and in early September, the two companies (with Fiore as the prime) won a $3 million task order contract to provide Oracle services, IT support services and enterprise resource planning to Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.
Jim Tarro, chief operating officer for the $6 million Fiore, which has 85 employees, said that the partnership has been extremely successful. The company benefits not only through the learning program but by earning additional revenue through contracts won in partnership with Anteon.
"They really do have a team culture there, and we're a part of it," he said. "We don't feel like we only have one little support group there, but the company as a whole is really a support group, and that's what really makes them an outstanding partner."