Solution Providers Keep It Close To Home

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While the federal government's national security-related IT projects get all of the attention, solution providers say there is a bundle of work available at the state and local levels.

Terry Blake, vice president of AMS' ERP service line in the solution provider's public sector group, said his company recently won deals to overhaul Wisconsin's sales-tax system, Illinois' student-loan collections and processing and Pennsylvania's department of motor vehicles on the Web.

"Most of the federal work is based in the D.C. area," where AMS' Fairfax, Va., headquarters is, Blake said. "From a standpoint of the clients knowing [the solution provider in a closer way, there is a difference working at the state and local levels. It's more about supporting the constituents and providing the services they need."

Terry Blake says AMS won a bid to implement an ERP system for the state of Iowa.

AMS had also just come off a bid to implement a full-blown ERP system for the state of Iowa that it won over Deloitte Consulting, BearingPoint (formerly KPMG Consulting) and Maximum.

"We were a lot cheaper [than all of them," in part because AMS wrote its own product, AMS Advantage, with state or local governments' needs in mind, Blake said. "Our product fits without requiring modifications."

Charlie Granville, executive vice president at Capita Technologies, King of Prussia, Pa., said his company is racking up work in Los Angeles County, where his office is located.

"We won a deal when L.A. put out a bid to do work with the county, and it's been phenomenal," Granville said.

Using funds earmarked by county government to promote Internet usage, Capita created applications with Oracle Forms to help the sheriff and local probation officers track people convicted of prior crimes. And Granville said he sees other county departments that could benefit from Capita's expertise.

"The mom-and-pops can't take on projects of this size, and the big guys are so expensive," Granville said. "We are so much less money than the other guys, [partly because we don't spend all of our time schmoozing for the business.

"We are in and out before most people would have a [request for proposal out the door," Granville added, citing the importance of building reusable objects as a way to save time and dollars and help clients get new functionality out of existing applications. After integrators have created a good stash of reusable software objects, "that makes [development a heck of a lot easier," he said.

David Dunn is also tapping the mother lode of opportunity at the local government level. In 1994, he founded solution provider VC3, a $4 million Columbia, S.C., firm that hosts local government's applications, builds Web sites and provides technology assessments and support.

Dunn and his team developed GovHost, a suite of online applications that residents use to compute property taxes, complain about a pothole or settle utility bills.

"We charge by population of the city," said Dunn, who is also president and CEO of VC3. His smallest client is a city of 2,000, and his largest has about 100,000 residents, he said.

For some of these solution providers, developing IT systems for local government is not only a way to conserve taxpayer dollars, but almost a civic duty.

"We are doing a service for the government, and I am really happy about that," Granville said.

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