IT projects are shrinking in size, and so is expected time for implementation. As monster projects overseen by thousands of programmers become few and far between, one thing's certain. “The organization that has the ability to win and manage IT programs will more likely win and stay ahead,“ says Tom Suder, vice president and co-founder of Concert Technologies. Recently, Suder offered ExecutiveBiz a look at how his own company, a technology rollout firm with a workforce in 91 countries and every zip code in the United States, is helping government and private sector clients implement stronger IT infrastructure.
Read the full interview here.
AT A GLANCE:
- Concert Technologies’ government customers represent 80 percent of the business; the remaining are Fortune 1000 global companies
- Green IT, especially with GSA, is a growing market for Concert Technologies. The company is currently working on “intelligent wiring structure” for buildings owned by GSA.
- The broadband stimulus project is another key focus. “Once that rolls out, we plan to do work around the country, deploying in rural areas,” says Suder.
“We're having our best year ever, getting into different markets beyond telecommunications.” “” Tom Suder, Concert Technologies
ExecutiveBiz: What's your ratio of government to commercial clients?
Tom Suder: Government represents 80 percent of our business. Our single biggest customer is the United States Postal Service. That one client alone has 48,000 offices nationwide, in nearly every single zip code. We've also done work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which maintains a field office in nearly every county in the United States. The remaining 20 percent of our work is with Fortune 1000 global companies. In addition to our extensive footprint in the United States, we've also done work in 91 countries.
ExecutiveBiz: What's your core point of differentiation?
Tom Suder: Nobody else has a workforce that covers 91 countries and every zip code in the United States. That's our strength. One of our statements is, “Take it to the limit every time.“ We do 400 to 500 jobs a week, everything from huge cabling installations (such as wiring a military base) to small technology rollouts where a technician installs a piece of gear “” a Juniper or Cisco router, for example, or more recently, Wide Area Network (WAN) accelerators that maximize T-1 bandwidth “” at a customer site.
ExecutiveBiz: What criteria help you select the right partners?
Tom Suder: Out in the field, we have about 3,500 partners. We have a system, which we've honed over the last 15 years, to get a referral from a trusted source. That's the first line of defense. Second, we check all references. You'd be surprised how hard it is to come up with references if you're not that good. Lastly, we try out individual technicians on small jobs and see how they do.
ExecutiveBiz: What's your biggest challenge in business today?
Tom Suder: It's not really a challenge, but it is difficult to get good people. One of our mottos is, “You've got to be straight with your customer.“ That requires having good, honest people on your team. You need to treat your employees very well, obviously. The single biggest thing I've done is let all my immediate staff telecommute. That gives them a lot of flexibility. We've had top talent recruited by industry, but they're more inclined to stay with us because we provide work-life flexibility.
ExecutiveBiz: How does Concert Technologies plan to continue growing in these difficult economic times?
Tom Suder: Well, we're having our best year ever, which helps. We're getting into different markets beyond telecommunications, expanding our technology base and getting more deployable equipment we can take care of. We're doing a lot of broadband wireless deployments, for example. With the broadband stimulus project, we've got some pretty good offerings. Once that rolls out, we plan to do work around the country, deploying in rural areas.
ExecutiveBiz: How are you positioning for the broadband stimulus package?
Tom Suder: Actually, we are in a very strong position thanks to the numerous local partners at our disposal. Cellular companies deploy regionally and we have an offering with our wireless partners to perform large deployments using tried and true solutions. Many of these projects have been implemented on a far-reaching scale in rural markets and the blueprint is already in place. Basically, we take the same top-notch design, engineering, and project management methods used on large metro projects and apply them to projects in these rural, underserved areas. Whether it is the broadband stimulus package ““ or one of our every day telecommunications projects ““ at the end of the day, we put local people to work.
ExecutiveBiz: How are you making the approach to municipalities nationwide?
Tom Suder: We're putting together a whole package to send to municipalities nationwide. A lot of times cellular companies deploy regionally, we've got a package with our partners that allows for large deployments with tried and true solutions that have been implemented on a far-reaching scale. Our pitch [to municipalities] is to provide the kind of top-notch design, engineering, and project management that a big metro area has, while putting local people to work. We anticipate sending out these proposals once states start receiving grants next year.
ExecutiveBiz: What other markets are you eyeing?
Tom Suder: Another market we're looking at is Green IT, especially with GSA. GSA is currently upgrading 360 or so buildings. Over the next 18 months, when refurbishing of those buildings winds down, government attention will shift to additional buildings. Concert Technologies has a plan to reinvest the money GSA will save on the initial buildings into a more intelligent wiring structure for roughly 2,000 additional buildings owned by GSA. Many are old, and include a hodge-podge of cables. We're hoping to do a beta on some buildings in the spring, with a universal code to centrally monitor all buildings' HVAC, heating, and security cameras remotely.
ExecutiveBiz: What will Concert Technologies look like in three years?
Tom Suder: More of our work is going global, and cloud computing is playing a big part. A lot of commercial organizations are migrating to the cloud, the government, meanwhile, will take a while. As for our government customers, we're heavily involved in the GSA Networx contract, which is the largest telecommunications contract in history. So the next three years should be a pretty lively time in the industry.