VAR500 2010 Spotlight: 5 To Watch

What makes the VAR500 companies shine? Charismatic leadership, a head for business and an eye on technology. Here are the views of five execs whose companies are on the 2010 list.

Computer Sciences Corp., No. 6

Eileen Sweeney

As president of Global Manufacturing, Industry Sector for CSC, Sweeney is responsible for roughly $2.5 billion in P&L and approximately 18,000 of CSC's 90,000-plus employees. She has been at CSC since 1995, and in her current role for the past two years, since CSC's corporate strategy shifted, under new Chairman Mike Laphen, to face the market from an industry point of view.

Sweeney's pre-CSC background helped her current employer with its new strategy. She had started as an engineer with GE aircraft, making engines on the floor. "That allowed me to understand what it means to have an issue with your engineering group, say when the drawings aren’t on the floor when you need them to be. I've lived in that environment. What CSC does is enable the environment from a technology perspective. I understand what is driving the C-level execs in their businesses and how you put technology in to enable those businesses."

What technologies are CSC's manufacturing clients looking for today?

"All of our clients are looking for value propositions that take costs out," Sweeney said. "I think we've bottomed out in manufacturing from a recessionary perspective and people are starting to invest in new markets, looking at investments they made and trying to leverage them more. For example, ERP systems are in place and they are gathering a lot of data. But what can they do now with it and how can they use it from an executive perspective. So they are looking for really creative business intelligence systems that they can use to predict business and to be quicker to respond to their business."

How does Sweeney balance work-life issues? Listen to her response here.

Telos, No. 156

John Wood

Originally founded in 1969, Telos was reborn in 1996 as a cyber security VAR. Its business is in protecting national security assets, by providing secure solutions in the area of communication, systems, networks and secure access solutions. "We've been doing security-world stuff since before it became cool," joked Wood, CEO of Telos.

The company has four business lines in the area of secure communications. Its automated messaging system is used throughout the intelligence community. In the area of securing systems, it certifies systems' security (it performed 450 certifications last year) and it defends networks. For example, it is responsible for the protection of the Pentagon's network -- which his hit by anywhere from two million to four million unauthorized access attempts daily.

In the area of secure access, Telos is the integrator of record for the largest biometric application, the military's ID card: 20 million cards have been issued.

"Security has really moved from the IT guy protecting 'the box' to people realizing that security has extended from the box to include people," Woods said. "Cybersecurity is becoming more of a holistic, organizational framework for managing risk that has direct financial consequences. So it started out being something relegated to the IT guy ... but as more risks were exposed, people began realizing it's an organizational element."

How does Telos mitigate customers' risks, particularly when they concern human interaction with technology? Listen to Woods' response:

Dimension Data, No. 30

Wendy Lucas

Looking at the earnings for Dimension Data's first half tells the story of a successful, diversified solutions provider. A big gain came in managed services, which grew more than 10 percent compared to the first half of 2009. Overall, Services grew 7.4 percent, which includes managed services as well as professional services, which grew more than 3 percent.

To attain -- and maintain -- that type of growth, Dimension Data relies on a high-performance employee culture. During her interview with the company CEO, Lucas, area vice president for the Canadian market, recalls the stress the chief exec placed on providing all employees with the tools to succeed -- and that the employees had a responsibility to provide their best for the customers. "Even if I didn't get the job," she said, "I knew I wanted to work somewhere where someone spoke just like that."

What makes Dimension Data a great place to work? Listen to Lucas' view.

Intelligent Decisions, No. 141

Harry Martin

Since 1988, Intelligent Decisions has evolved from a traditional VAR to an IT integrator focusing on the federal, state and local government markets. As founder, president and CEO, Harry Martin has been instrumental in expanding the company's networking and custom manufacturing capabilities to include a vast array of professional services, advanced systems integration, innovative solutions and programs with a focus on solving intelligence community challenges.

"Nothing comes off the shelf in the government market," Martin explained. "It's completely different from the commercial space ... there is an unusually high barrier to entry. You can't just pitch services or goods. You have to comply with rules and regulations, and understand the lay of the land."

ID's substantial government experience is what makes the company unique. But even with all that experience, working with the government's long planning cycle can be tough. "For us, the challenges are that the fiscal year for the government ends in September, while ours ends in December. The most important thing is to close out the government fiscal year."

At the same time the Air Force, Department of Homeland Security and the Veterans Administration are awarding large government contracts, and ID's focus is on those opportunities.

"The challenge for us is to participate and get locked and loaded in the next six months. That's unique to government space, and can take years to prepare for."

How is government spending looking, and what does the overall economy look like to Martin? Hear his thoughts:

Glasshouse Technologies, No. 270

Natalie Hahn O’Flaherty

Founded in 2001 by storage and professional services experts, Glasshouse is currently in the process of an IPO. The solution provider attempted an IPO in 2009, but withdrew its application citing the uncertain economic conditions.

GlassHouse consultants analyze infrastructure environments for optimizing the management of data. After a year of tightly drawn purse strings, Hahn O'Flaherty, vice president of marketing at Glasshouse, has observed a subtle change in the market. Customers are looking to do larger projects after waiting last year and holding off, and they are planning projects that span across their data centers.

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"We're at a point now where companies have gone through a survival period and now are looking to really grow, she said.

What's hot right now? Not surprisingly, cloud computing. However, while cloud is "huge in terms of discussion," it's not huge in terms of implementation. What is hot in terms of implementation are technologies -- such as disaster recovery -- that support customers' businesses and help them increase their revenue.

Listen to what Glasshouse is seeing in the areas of cloud computing as well as disaster recovery: