Ciber: Company of the Year

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Earlier this year, Ciber bought a small, single-office IT consultancy that specialized in SAP implementations. According to Ciber, it bought the business from a competitor that couldn't see a way to make the organization work, at least as far as it was concerned. Ciber, however, picked up the 30 employees, rolled them into its U.S.-based SAP practice, and generated $1.8 million in new business in the first quarter of 2005 alone.

In the grand scheme of things, the deal wasn't that big--the business represents less than 1 percent of Ciber's worldwide sales. But the acquisition is, nonetheless, interesting: It demonstrates Ciber's ability to recognize and capitalize on opportunities that other companies routinely miss. For that capacity and others, VARBusiness has chosen Ciber as its inaugural VARBusiness 500 Company of the Year.

No. 63 on the 2005 VARBusiness 500 ranking, Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Ciber is a growing, international powerhouse. With offices in 17 countries, Ciber's 8,000 employees serve clients from more than 60 U.S. offices, 22 European offices and three in Asia, which provide a variety of IT services on virtually any platform for any computing environment in the public and private sectors. Founded in 1974, Ciber is a publicly traded New York Stock Exchange company with a net worth, at press time, in excess of $450 million. Last year, the company, which counts SAP, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Sun among its most strategic partners, saw sales increase 21.8 percent to $843 million.

Now, as the company approaches $1 billion in annual sales, CEO Mac Slingerlend says Ciber is focused on several goals, including making the most of recent acquisitions (Ciber has purchased two companies in the past seven months), continuing its expansion into Europe, increasing business with public-sector clients and generating more cash from existing operations. Beyond that, however, Ciber is looking at other goals and opportunities, some of which make it unique.

Take the company's approach to outsourcing, for example. Like many companies, Ciber has established off-shore development capabilities so that it remains price-competitive with its rivals, many of which have much larger presences in India, China and Eastern Europe. But Ciber didn't stop there. Ciber laid the groundwork in late 2004 for establishing what it unveiled in January--low-cost, "Made in America" application-development centers designed to "tap into the underutilized technology talent pools of midsize American metropolitan areas." These "Cibersite" facilities have opened in areas where talent is rich but wages and other costs of doing business are relatively lower than in larger U.S. cities.

Though the company, which specializes in building, integrating and supporting mission-critical business applications and systems for clients as diverse as British Airways, Marriott and the U.S. Postal Service, has an aggressive acquisition strategy and a vaunted customer support, neither has attracted quite the attention the establishment of just two on-shore outsourcing centers have. Located in Tampa, Fla., and Oklahoma City, these Cibersite facilities have provided the company a place where it can send applications-development work to be performed by American workers on American soil.

Ultimately, Ciber believes it can establish multiple centers during the next 18 months and employ as many as 1,000 people. That has attracted the attention of state legislatures, local media and "Buy American"-oriented customers.

Clearly, Ciber is trying to offer clients a low-cost option for their high-tech problems. Since opening its first Cibersites just a few months ago, Ciber executives say they met with dozens of Fortune 2000, midmarket and government clients that are intrigued by the concept, according to Tim Boehm, president of Ciber's Cibersites business unit.

As it has elsewhere, Ciber has seized an opportunity others have missed, which, we believe, is noteworthy, and laudable.


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