Gary Arlen | Tailor made

Making the team | How to land the right partners

Harris Corp.'s Government Communications Systems

Major customers: Defense Department, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Homeland Security Department, Federal Aviation Administration under the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure contract and Census Bureau under the Field Data Collection Automation contract.

Small-business projects: Harris' small-business partners work on projects involving geospatial engineering, cable assembly, wireless telecommunications, engineering support, business process re-engineering and network infrastructure expertise.

For information:


Rhonda Sammon

Small-Business Liaison Officer

Phone: (321) 729-2093

Fax: (321) 729-2097

Current needs: Some projects require certification under International Organization for Standardization specifications, the AS9100 aerospace standard or the Capability Maturity Model Integration standard.

When do subcontractors become involved? Harris works with small-business partners during project development and also often brings partners onboard when the contract is under way. Harris encourages managers to be entrepreneurial so they gravitate toward small-business partners with similar approaches.

Rhonda Sammon is the point person for Harris Corp.'s outsourcing divison.

Rhonda Sammon, small-business liaison officer at Harris Corp.'s Government Communications Systems unit, remembers a phone call that she describes as "the best call I ever got."

It was a prospective small-business supplier, who started the call by naming the particular project Harris was working on and the specific task the company wanted to outsource.

"That's a fabulous way of showing that you've done your homework," she said. It also shows the potential partner is focusing its efforts within Harris. The caller had the right attitude because Harris has high regard for entrepreneurial efforts, she said.

Fit also figures prominently in Sammon's vocabulary. She uses the term frequently to describe the quest for matching small-business capabilities to Harris' customers' requirements.

Although Harris has traditionally focused on defense and communications services, its current project lineup reflects a wider range of technology services. For example, it is working on an automation project for field data collection in conjunction with the Census Bureau's Master Address and Topographic ? Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing database system for the 2010 census.

Harris also has small-business partners on several Federal Aviation Administration projects.

For these and its defense and intelligence projects, Harris is looking for small businesses to handle tasks ranging from geospatial engineering to cable subassembly.

Harris' small-business-supplier Web site is the best way for companies to initiate their approach to the company's opportunities.

If a company doesn't find a good fit among the 17 product-and-services categories on the site, it should contact Sammon, she said. She helps companies determine the best fit with Harris.

Sammon also suggested that companies select the closest matching category then provide more specifics in the "Special Capabilities" section of the form.
The database is available to Harris project managers and procurement officers in the Government Communications Systems group, based at corporate headquarters in Melbourne, Fla., and the company's commercial counterparts.

Clearing the way

In addition to relying on the Harris registration database, Sammon leads an outreach program that participates in regional and national meetings to find small-business partners. The company tries to engage small-business partners at the start of a contract process, especially if the company fills a specific niche Harris needs, she said.

Sammon also monitors, the Web site of the Center for Veterans Enterprise, run by the Veteran Affairs Department. She also tracks supplier registration sites at agencies and state and local business development offices "to assure we have what is available."

"I do matchmaking. It gives me a good idea for the fit," Sammon said.
Harris teams perform due diligence on prospective partners as part of the procurement process. After Sammon's initial evaluation, which includes a review of prior performance ratings, certifications and similar factors and experience, potential partners are examined for underlying competencies.

"I have a method to make the process more efficient," Sammon said. "You want to make sure you listen to what they have to say. If there isn't a fit, you [give] that small business several avenues to gain business, such as going to supplier events" or pointing them toward other resources.

Harris' mentor/protégé program now includes two companies that have been aboard for several projects. Ameretron, a certified small disadvantaged and 8(a) Hispanic-owned business in West Melbourne, Fla., has been involved in several Defense Department tasks. Avineon Inc., an IT company in Alexandria, Va., has provided geospatial, engineering and program management services on Homeland Security Department and other projects.

Sammon said Harris is targeting service-disabled suppliers, too.
The details are important. Entrepreneurs who take heed of what the contractor needs have a much better chance of making themselves into just what Sammon is looking for: a good fit.

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications Inc., a Bethesda, Md., research firm. He can be reached at

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