Longtime partners, long-term projects

Making the team | Perot Systems favors nimble allies to tackle performance-based deals

Making the team

Perot Systems Corp.

Government Services business unit
http://ps.net/about/

»Small-business partners:

About 150

» Information:

Donnie Blanks, executive vice president

703-289-8220

Donnie.Blanks@ps.net

Perot Systems' Web site has no online registration form for small-business subcontractors.

» Outlook:

"Our focus will be on long-term contract relationships with customers, where we can become a trusted partner," Blanks said.

» Projects:

Education Department, two contracts and three bids under way

Homeland Security Department

Transportation Department

NASA

Coast Guard

» Special requirements:

Data warehousing, business process management, telecommunications. Perot Systems places great emphasis on "how to win the deal," including knowledge of prospective customers and business experience.

» When do subcontractors become involved?

Early in bidding process. Bids are collaborations with its partners.

"Some small businesses have the upper hand because they have excellent client relationships," says Donnie Blanks, Perot Systems.

Rick Steele

"Come see me," is Donnie Blanks' pronouncement on how small businesses can connect with Perot Systems Corp.'s government services unit.

Blanks prefers not to attend business affairs ? he said he usually collects more business cards than knowledge ? but he has had success finding teammates at meet-and-greet events.

Blanks has developed a roster of trusted allies to augment Perot's resources as the company expands its government business. For example, Blanks said he met Wai-Wize LP, a Dallas 8(a) telecommunications integrator, during a small-business event in Baltimore.

"We spent four hours on a Saturday morning with [CEO] Willis Johnson, explaining an Education Department project," Blanks said.

Johnson's company was already a small-business partner on other federal projects, Blanks said. Perot and Wai-Wize have teamed on three projects so far.
That relationship exemplifies Perot's objective to develop ongoing relationships with experienced companies.

"Some small businesses have the upper hand because they have excellent client relationships," Blanks said. ArcAspicio LLC, for example, is a woman-owned company in Arlington, Va., specializing in business process management and information architecture. "I would partner with them over and over and over," he said. "They are that good."

Perot also has developed a good mentor-protégé alliance with Blackstone Technology Group, a San Francisco middleware specialist and a partner on Perot's Homeland Security Department Eagle contract, he said.

Perot has partnered twice with ClaraView Inc., a data-warehousing specialist, and with Bowhead Information Technology Services, an 8(a) Alaska Native IT services company.

Perot's big ventures today include the Eagle project, for which it holds an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity deal, and two Education Department projects: Education Data Enhanced Network and Education Data Warehouse.

The company's approach requires subcontractors to move quickly. Blanks said the drive is toward "performance-based contracting with incentives and disincentives ? our partners have to be able to sign up to that."

For Perot's initial Education Department projects, the company and its team made its first deliverable in just two months because, Blanks said, Perot and its subcontractors had incentive to deliver early.

Blanks' partnering focuses on two points that he sees in the contracting battleground: Rely on trusted allies, and know the competition.

Perot has acquired two companies to accelerate its government services activities. Perot's Government Services group is building a 20,000-square-foot business development and proposal center in Fairfax, Va., which demonstrates "the company's huge commitment" to expand its government work, Blanks said.

To fulfill that commitment, Perot will need subcontractors, he said. Subcontractors and new employees can bring valuable "track records and past performance with an agency," he said. When Perot finds a potential partner, it reviews credentials in the same way it goes after new business, Blanks said.

Perot's strategy stems from its efforts to move from task-oriented projects to long-term relationships. "We have everyone running faster," Blanks said.

Perot, which ranks 44th on Washington Technology's 2006 Top 100 list of the largest government IT contractors, had total federal IT revenue of just under $250 million, with two-thirds of that coming from military contracts.

Perot is pursuing contracts now held by other vendors ? another reason it seeks to leverage subcontractors' relationships with agencies.

Blanks said his sights are set on several more Education Department contracts, including a virtual data center for the federal student aid program, the Migrant Student Information Exchange, and an integrated partner management project. Perot also is bidding on a Drug Enforcement Administration project that will consolidate five IT contracts into one.

Although most of Perot's work involves federal agencies in Washington, Blanks said the company is bidding for work with the Air Force Space Command in Colorado. He is recruiting partners from that area to handle a variety of tasks should Perot win.

Blanks said intelligence and case management are two areas where the company wants to hire experienced workers. Perot also wants to find application solutions experts who understand the government's interest in performance-based contracting.

"The future of solving government problems is using the media of today," he said, citing his admiration for innovative approaches at young companies such as Google Inc.

"We want to take what we can do with [the Education Department] and corporate clients, and apply it to other federal agencies, civilian or defense," he said.

Companies interested in partnering with Perot should bring him eight to 10 slides that reflect a concise summary of their skills and experience, he said.

"We don't believe we have the corner on knowledge," Blanks said. "We'll share the direction in which we're going, and can quickly ascertain if there's a relationship."
Teaming is not done in a vacuum, he said. Perot tries to "manage expectation levels though early involvement in the bid process, [which] enables us to [collaborate] on strategy and price to win."

Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications Inc., can be reached at GaryArlen@columnist.com.

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