EDS Using Its 'Tools' To Form, Revise Teams

Gwen Johnson, director of EDS Corp.'s small business program for government projects, strongly differentiates "teaming" from "subcontracting."

"Teaming means [our small business partner is] supporting the proposal effort" from the beginning of the contracting process, she said. "Some will have an integral part in building the solution. That happens in the proposal time frame."

Johnson also said "the longer-term relationship comes from teaming." Small business specialists "can shape [their] part of the proposal" and in the process are exposed to EDS' sales staff. Subsequently, when EDS' sales team sees a project with a need for similar expertise, the small business partner may be brought into the team again, she added.

"Past performance is very important in teaming," Johnson said, noting that it's a mutual relationship. Small business projects, such as 8A or set-aside government projects that EDS does not or cannot seek on its own, are places where a small business partner can help EDS, she said. Small businesses that have been subcontractors to EDS on other projects can bring EDS in as a sub on their projects. "They'll include EDS in deals that we're not going to prime on," Johnson said.

Staffing Tool

Leveraging relationships is part of EDS' approach to small business partnering, both for teaming and for its conventional subcontracting activities. EDS has also developed a small business staffing program that seeks to bring specialists into EDS contracts. Johnson said the approach is neither a hiring nor a recruiting tool.

The staffing system was designed to support an EDS account that needed a specific skill. The staffing tool helps EDS find a person with the necessary skills for current requirements and assign him or her to a specific EDS project, Johnson said.

She called it a "very creative" way to develop a "specialty staffing pool of companies [and] for EDS to find skills." Take the case of an EDS account having an immediate need for a systems administrator. Using the staffing tool, EDS can examine the credentials of a dozen or more small business partners in its database and identify the ones suited for the current task.

"It's a good way to open doors," Johnson said, adding that such projects have helped small business build a track record with EDS.

To build teams, EDS developed an evaluation tool. It is a process that lets EDS meet its dual partnering objectives: to use companies with which it has previous experience and also to develop new relationships.

"If I've got a team put together for one account, and then we pursue another project, it makes sense to bring them [team members] together," Johnson said. But EDS "does try to rotate companies so that [we] don't always have the work going to one small business," she added.

"We don't know their performance until we work with them," she said, adding that the pool of potential small business partners is one way for EDS to get to know small contractors for future teaming.

Starting with the Web sites

As the staffing pool and the teaming initiatives indicate, EDS' government contracting office relies heavily on identifying potential small business alliances from companies that register on its Web site (www.eds-gov.com/smallbiz).

Everyone within the EDS firewall has access to that site, Johnson said. Her four-person office in Northern Virginia is the primary user, but Johnson also gets calls from different groups within EDS that are looking to fill immediate requirements.

Prospective small-business partners can fill out a supplier profile on the Web site. A critical segment asks for examples of previous work, especially if the company has worked for other EDS projects, Johnson said.

"We prefer a company to register in the database, then contact us with information that will help us distinguish their firm," she said. Customer knowledge, local presence or an edge product in the security arena are factors that add value to a company's profile, she said.

Johnson encourages prospective partners to do a little homework about EDS so they can identify specific areas where they can contribute or provide solutions. This helps Johnson find the right people within EDS. "If you want to distinguish yourself, look at where you fit with EDS," she said.

Johnson's team also looks to the Dynamic Small Business Search, the Small Business Administration's Web site, and at the client agencies' sites to identify prospective partners and skills. In addition, EDS works with chambers of commerce and the National Minority Supplier Development Council (at both the national level and with regional chapters, especially the Northern Virginia unit) to find appropriate small companies to bring into its projects. The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and its small business committee also are resources for EDS' search for small business partners.

EDS conducts outreach in several ways, Johnson said. She points to participation in client-run conferences as well as its mentoring projects. EDS currently runs 12 protégé relationships, mostly in the Washington area; some of the companies it is mentoring in the capital region also have presence elsewhere in the U.S.

Special Skills

EDS' major projects dictate the kinds of skills it needs in both its teaming and general subcontracting relationships. The multiyear Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project is the largest government IT contract in history, designed to replace the independent networks at Navy and Marine shore locations throughout the United States and at selected overseas locations.

Under the contract, EDS was required to work with small businesses that had been working with the Navy before the contract was awarded, Johnson said of the $8.8 billion project.

One company, Rancho Santa Fe Technology Inc., a minority-owned business headquartered near San Diego, has handled a lot of the infrastructure building for the NMCI project. Johnson said that Rancho Santa Fe is an example of geographic proximity helping a small business build an EDS connection.

In another case involving Hawaiian projects, EDS found at least 10 companies located in Hawaii to support its work; some had roots elsewhere, but all had a physical presence on the island near the EDS client.

Because EDS does extensive security work, partners are expected to be able to obtain clearances.

In addition to tracking its own small business subcontracting on NMCI, EDS also tracks the small business subcontracting of its big subcontractors, Johnson said. EDS must report small business participation "down to the third tier" of this process, she added.

Such interdependent relationships are vital in EDS' small business philosophy, Johnson said. "We work with small businesses because it is just good business practice," she said. "We're not known for handling one project by ourselves. Small businesses bring value to the team. They have client knowledge. I want long-term strategic partnering alliances with EDS."

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications Inc., a Bethesda, Md. research firm. His e-mail address is GaryArlen@columnist.com.

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Recent and Upcoming

Navy Marine Corps
Intranet (NMCI) contract ($8.8 billion, launched in October 2000)

Renovation Office: Command Communications Survivability Program

Information Technology Services (HITS)

Services Administration: several projects

For Information

Small Business Office, Herndon, VA

site: www.eds-gov.com/smallbiz

Contact: Gwen Johnson (gwen.johnson@eds.com)

703 736 4013

Special Requirements

clearance for many projects.

Location: near
key EDS contract sites, especially Washington, D.C., area; Norfolk, Va.; San
Diego, Calif.

When do sub-contractors
become involved?

Teaming begins in
proposal preparation phase.

Small business
partners are brought aboard to fulfill mandates and meet local presence


EDS is using
an evaluation tool to measure past performance. It seeks to bring new
companies into its teaming structure.

Special Attention

Desktop support,
network infrastructure, business process re-engineering

12 active
protégé relationships, mostly in the D.C. region

EDS is
targeting Service-Disabled Veterans and HUB-zone partners.

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