Company Hopes Software Tools Are Blueprint for Success

Company Hopes Software Tools Are Blueprint for Success

Ralph Alexander

By Nick Wakeman, Staff Writer

With more government agencies looking to exploit the World Wide Web, Blueprint Technologies Inc. is banking on its rapidly deployable software packages as a way to break into the federal market.

Government organizations are facing many of the same issues as their commercial counterparts: how to use the Internet to save time, money and re-
sources, said Linda Christoforo, who was named Blueprint's federal sales manager March 6.

While still relatively tiny at $4.2 million in 1999 revenue, the McLean, Va.-based company has been experiencing explosive growth and expects to break the $10 million mark in 2000, said Ralph Alexander, company president and chief executive.

Blueprint provides software tools, services and training built around the idea of using software frameworks or blueprints to rapidly develop and deploy applications on the Internet, company officials said.

Relying on reusable software development tools can be a smart growth
strategy, said Dan Malkoun, an analyst with the investment banking firm Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. of Arlington, Va.

"If you can build a reusable tool or component that enables to have leverage in your margins, you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time," he said.

Problems can occur, of course, if a company does not keep up with changing technology.

"But if you have technology that is going to be around for awhile, and you are confident you can sell it, then it can be a successful strategy," he said.

In the government space, Blueprint wants to leverage the application work it has done for NASA. Blueprint, working under prime contractor Global Science and Technology Inc. of Greenbelt, Md., is helping NASA build a system that will allow earth science researchers around the country to access a variety of data that the space agency collects.

Blueprint's object-oriented and component-based software development capabilities were an important part of creating the NASA earth sciences system, said Global Science and Technology product manager Ron Boyd.

"They brought some unique technologies to the project," Boyd said.

He described the system as similar to Amazon.com, where users can search for and place orders and check on the status of orders. But the NASA system is more complex, because researchers have to be able to search by time and location.

For example, a researcher can look for El Nino data according to a specific region at a specific time, Boyd said.

"There are a lot of agencies with data that could use this kind of system," he said. Intelligence agencies and the U.S. Geological Survey were two examples he cited.

And the Commerce Department is looking to modernize its weather systems and would be a potential customer, Alexander said.

The NASA project represents a good example of Blueprint's capabilities, because the project uses the Web to collect, store and distribute large amounts of data, Christoforo said.

"That can apply to just about any agency," she said.

As Blueprint looks to garner more government business, a major part of its strategy will be to form partnerships with systems integrators and other service providers focused on the government space.

"We have to establish partnerships, because they give us access to contract vehicles and give us visibility," Christoforo said.

Blueprint not only helps with software development, the company also provides consulting services and training. Blueprint has a partnership with Rational Software Inc., a maker of a variety of software products in Cupertino, Calif.

Another part of Blueprint's strategy is to act as a mentor to its customers, so the customer can establish software development practices that can be used even after Blueprint's contract is over, Christoforo said.

The company does not want to just provide programmers for an hourly rate. "We aren't a body shop," she said. "We want to help them establish practices so they can use them going forward."

That strategy should be attractive in the government market because of the tight budget constraints agencies are under, Christoforo said.

Blueprint's emphasis on training also is illustrated in its Object Academy, a set of courses the company teaches at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

By June, 100 students from companies such as Northrop Grumman Corp., Computer Sciences Corp. and Bell Atlantic Corp. will have participated in the program.

There is a huge need for training in object-oriented computer languages, such as Java
and C, said Roger Hebden, who runs the four-course program for Blueprint at the university.

Alexander said that he is talking with other colleges in the Washington area about starting academies on their campuses.

"We are trying to create something special," he said.

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