The last time we spoke with Jeff Handy, president of Fulcrum IT, the company was growing over 20 percent a year. Since then, Fulcrum has continued on its winning streak. Over the past year, it’s secured wins at the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), and US courts, as well as some places on the civilian side. This year’s budget has a target of over 25 percent growth and, as a result of 2008 wins, Fulcrum’s backlog alone supports over 90 percent of that goal, Handy tells us. In the midst of that record growth, ExecutiveBiz recently caught up with Handy to get his take on how other small companies with high-end engineering capabilities can solidify wins among government and private sector clients alike.
ExecutiveBiz: Where do Fulcrum IT’s geographic expansion efforts now stand?
Jeff Handy: Our NGIC, INSCOM and CENTCOM wins are good examples of our expansion geographically, and vertically. Geographically our NGIC work based out of Charlottesville, Va., and our CENTCOM work being based out of Tampa, Fla., has grown our footprint. Likewise, our INSCOM support where we are leading a project to define next generation data architectures for the Army combines Fulcrum IT’s data management practice with our understanding of the client mission. Similarly we are applying our enterprise management practice leveraging the ITIL framework to support the CENTCOM J6 IT requirements.
“Be proactive by selecting partners where both add value and you can clearly provide a leadership role.”
— Jeff Handy
ExecutiveBiz: What best practices are fueling that growth?
Jeff Handy: As we continue to drive our practice areas more vertically, we’re seeing more opportunity. We’re also being sought out a lot more for teaming opportunities to round out capabilities for partners and clients. Lastly, our branding has become much stronger over the last two years.
ExecutiveBiz: Tell us about your branding approach.
Jeff Handy: We began by focusing on high-end engineering capabilities. We’re not as interested in the O&M, the downstream portions of IT support. We’re much more interested in the design and development stages with our clients. We found that focusing on key technologies — data, computer security, pure software development, web enablement, and web 2.0 type stuff — differentiates us from many larger competitors, which are more focused on systems integration versus the front end of the IT life cycle.
ExecutiveBiz: Fulcrum is sitting at about a 50/50 split of prime to sub. What strategies maximize the odds of securing prime opportunities?
Jeff Handy: We’ve made a conscious effort to strengthen our first gate review of business opportunities, thus reducing the number of opportunities further down our pipeline. About 18 months ago, we combined our first two gates — we call them “lead” and “opportunity” — to improve visibility into opportunities earlier in the process. This approach forces gate decisions earlier and has allowed us to invest more in the early stages, resulting in more qualified opportunities, with more focused investment in those opportunities as they mature and bid/no-bid decisions are made. We found a lot of time was being spent on “leads” that never passed the “opportunity” gate review.
ExecutiveBiz: What needs are you seeing among your defense and private sector clients?
Jeff Handy: In the defense sector, there’s continued interest in network-centric, service-based architectures and solutions. Service-oriented architectures (SOA) with agile enterprises and development are driving the approach to many requirements. In the civilian sector there continues to be an emphasis on personal data privacy and protection of information. There’s also a great deal of emphasis on all aspects of data management, including perishability, search, and taxonomy. Growth in data, in both data availability and applications, is driving demand.
ExecutiveBiz: What other IT trends are you seeing among federal, state and local, as well as commercial clients?
Jeff Handy: Certainly our clients are following Web 2.0, SOA and IT as a service trends. We are beginning to see an added emphasis on IT planning and portfolio management as budgets tighten.
ExecutiveBiz: What’s your methodology for tracking industry trends?
Jeff Handy: We try to marry our knowledge of technology and the future with current guidance. For example, we stay tuned to things like federal enterprise architectures (FEA). We’re also paying attention, obviously, to trends in IT planning and portfolio management to figure out how to migrate our customers as technology refreshes.
ExecutiveBiz: Government transparency, energy audits, and cyber security have become the buzzwords of the day. What advice can you offer small companies for positioning themselves in these arenas?
Jeff Handy: For smaller companies, we have to constantly remember that it takes time for the government requirements and acquisition processes to catch up with new concepts in the government market. So, it’s paramount to be patient and pace your investment to align with government investment in new ideas.
ExecutiveBiz: Any partnering tips for smaller companies?
Jeff Handy: Be proactive by selecting partners where both add value and you can clearly provide a leadership role. Avoid relationships with strategic partners that result in your company “checking a box” or becoming a sales and marketing capability for them — there’s no differentiator there. Always look for how your organization adds a discriminator to the relationship with respect to the solution that also strengthens your branding.
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