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Shankar Pillai: How your IT company can stay competitive

Shankar Pillai: How your IT company can stay competitive - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Shankar Pillai: How your IT company can stay competitive - top government contractors - best government contracting eventThey say one of the evolutionary laws of business is that success breeds failure. The very tactics that moved a company forward in the past won't necessarily keep it there. A prime example is industry certifications for IT companies. Even three years ago, a company was considered cutting edge if it was ISO or CMMI certified. No longer; now it's just a basic requirement to play. So, how does a company stay competitive? In the following Q&A, Shankar Pillai, founder and president of OnPoint, a rapidly growing technology and management consulting firm in Arlington, offers up his insights for a company to stay ahead of the game.

What best practices help you stay ahead?

Shankar Pillai: I think the best small companies are realizing that you can't just be certified; you have to live and breathe these standards.  If anything, what differentiates us as an organization with these standards is how much they have permeated our organization “” how institutionalized they've become. For example our business development processes are ISO certified and CMMI certified.  That is pretty unusual. We've applied those processes as far as we can to all of our infrastructure areas: finance, HR, accounting, even business development and project management. When we go after a new business development opportunity there is a process that we follow “” a very structured process “” describing how we go about pursuing an opportunity, from identifying it through qualifying it through pursuing it through completing a proposal.

What are some hot new certifications to pay attention to?

Shankar Pillai:
ISO 20000 is a new one that is becoming more important. There are very few infrastructure companies “” companies that do network and server operations “”  that are ISO 20000 certified.  ISO 20000 is really the differentiator for companies like ours. Another one is ISO 27000, which is for the information assurance space.  Those are the big ones.

In a few years time those certifications will become old hat as well “” what can companies do to continually stay ahead?

Shankar Pillai: When ISO 20000 starts becoming institutionalized and every organization is ISO 20000 “” you're right, it's no longer a differentiator.  So the bar is raised across the industry, across this whole sector and that is a good thing. Meanwhile, staying ahead is really fueled by your technical people, the frontline folks who are working with government agencies, working onsite at the agencies.  Most of our staff is deployed onsite at federal agencies.  They come back to us and say “This is what we are hearing “¦ this is where the government's pain points are “¦ they want to see more standardization or they want to see a process focus.“  So a lot of this is driven by the government and what their current needs are.

What certifications are government clients all abuzz about now?

Shankar Pillai: Agencies and customers we work for are very interested in ITIL “” the IT Infrastructure Library “” not so much for software development but for IT infrastructure services.  It really has been the prevailing standard for infrastructure services. ITIL was originally a British standard that is incorporated into ISO 20000.

What other ways can companies keep their eyes and ears open?

Shankar Pillai: Staying ahead also involves actively participating in industry organizations.  There are organizations like the Industry Advisory Council (or IAC) “” it's a very active organization comprised of industry and government participants.  They have special interest groups (SIGs) that focus on specific technology areas and trends in technology.  That's a great place to be an active participant.  They focus on specific areas like information assurance and look at where the government is going.  Also, we use information resources like Gartner to see trends developing in technologies, where technology is going.  So it's a constant effort and it constantly evolves as you go.

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