BuySide Partners breaks off from A-Frame to focus on large DoD opportunity

Tom Paine

I wrote a piece last year about A-Frame Technology Services, a King of Prussia-based firm which helped businesses and government agencies manage very large application development projects. Actually, A-Frame had two sides: one focused on the commercial market, and another focused on the government (specifically, the Department of Defense) sector named A-Frame Technology Assurance. The latter has now broken off into an entirely separate entity named BuySide Partners, reflecting the emphasis on who they represent.

A-Frame Technology Services continues to serve the commercial market.

BuySide Partners has an experienced team led by Managing Partner Chris Panaro, a founding principal at A-Frame Technology Assurance, who has more than 25 years of experience in developing and implementing best practices in procurement, contracting, and operational process methodologies. Also with BuySide is Bob Moyer, who co-founded and grew Aston Brooke and Aston Brooke Software which was ultimately sold to Platinum Technologies, and founded software company FullTilt Solutions that specialized in enterprise product information management (acquired by QAD in 2008). The team also includes John Zettler, a pricing and contract finance specialist with expertise in IT services and enterprise software acquisition, and Tom Crawford, an IT contracting specialist who led and grew business units at SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle, and BMC, and also served as CEO of Cyber-Ark, a security software firm.

The timing of this reorganization coincides with the firm's ten-year relationship supporting the DoD’s IT sourcing initiative (known as DoD ESI or Enterprise Software Initiative). DoD ESI is an official Department of Defense program sponsored by CIOs from all military departments and civilian agencies that helps IT buyers obtain the best value on commercial software, IT hardware, and services. DoD ESI coordinates agreements with IT providers, resulting in a unified contracting and vendor management strategy across the entire department. The initiative claims to have achieved cost avoidance of $4 billion over the past 12 years.

Some of DoD's enterprise application projects are huge, multi-billion dollar undertakings, are very complex and often face enormous challenges. Examples are SAP's Army project and Oracle's Air Force project, which are both troubled according to some reports. BuySide does not manage specific enterprise application implementation projects for DoD, but rather consults on overall strategies and methodologies for project and vendor management, and develops specific systems to assist in this process. DoD ESI recently launched a pilot of its Products & Pricing Portal, developed by BuySide. The portal provides a new capability for IT buyers across the DoD to access, sort, and analyze product and pricing data for commercial software applications. The pilot release covered products available from Adobe, Gartner, iGrafx, Microsoft, Minitab, PowerSteering, and RWD. When fully deployed, this tool will provide access to over 50,000 commercial software products and IT services offered by DoD ESI vendors. In addition, a private price-benchmarking tool was developed by BuySide to provide DoD buyers with actual prices paid for thousands of IT products. This capability was developed in rapid response to a House Armed Services Committee report recommending that the military departments and civilian agencies share pricing data before purchasing any IT assets.

As part of the Obama Administration's efforts to rein in Defense spending, DoD's IT budget has not escaped cutbacks. The President's new budget calls for DoD's IT budget to decline from $38.6 billion in fiscal 2012 to $37.2 billion next year. While these cuts will put pressure on systems vendors, it potentially creates greater opportunities for a firm such as BuySide Partners, since it focuses on finding more efficiencies for the buyer.

Another huge issue facing Federal IT in general is the Cloud. Last year, Federal agencies were asked by then CIO Vivek Kundra to pursue a "cloud-first" option when evaluating technology purchases. Now, that initiative has been expanded with a recently announced "Shared First" program which prioritizes the sharing of both government and commercial Cloud resources for Federal systems. While BuySide has played a role in getting DoD up to speed on Cloud options, Managing Partner Panaro pointed out in an interview with Philly Tech News that there are many complications in moving DoD apps quickly to a Cloud environment. One issue is the security requirements, which are obviously more rigorous in the Defense sector than in other areas. The other issue is the complexity and size of and length of time to implement the huge enterprise applications that major DoD agencies use. Quicker Cloud adoption is more likely for smaller, new applications that may work in a hybrid manner with large on-premise apps.

A current proposal backed by the Defense Business Board, comprised of private-sector executives, would consolidate more control over the agencies under the office of DoD CIO Teri Takai and establish a coordinated, integrated strategy for data center consolidation and cloud computing at the department level.

Panaro sees a considerable growth opportunity for BuySide within its existing business model. He says that the firm will continue to focus on its specialized knowledge of the DoD IT market, although expansion into some other areas of the Federal goverment is a possibility. One recent research report estimated the total size of the Federal IT market as being $518 billion over the 2013 – 2018 time frame, growing at a 3% annual rate.


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