In the fast-paced world of travel agencies, New York City-based Skyline International Travel was struggling to keep up. Saddled with an outdated computer system that lacked networking, remote access and Internet capabilities, employees were spending valuable time passing around floppy disks and waiting to use the fax machine.
With only four employees, Skyline was too small to justify hiring a full-time information technology (IT) specialist, so president Vivian Rodrigues turned to Ramon Ray and his New York City Family Computer Consulting Services to get the firm up to speed. Ray, who had three years' experience working with small-business owners, engineered a solution for Skyline's computer shortfalls. He started by installing a peer-to-peer network to optimize information sharing among employees. Since Rodrigues does a great deal of business from his home office and on the road, Ray equipped Rodrigues' PCs with a high-speed modem and remote access software, allowing him to access Skyline's LAN for timely information. An Internet connection, space on a server to build a Web site and e-mail capability completed the job.
The outcome of this IT makeover? Rodrigues has seen improvements not just in office productivity but profitability as well. "[Ray] put us on the map, so to speak," Rodrigues says. "The exposure from our Web site has gotten us at least one account. Also, without e-mail we were faxing a lot, and since we do a lot of international work, our phone bills were very high. He saved us a tremendous amount of money."
When outsourcing your IT needs, Ray suggests testing prospective vendors with small assignments before signing a contract with them for a complete makeover. While most IT outsourcing referrals come via word of mouth, you can also check out the Web site of the Independent Computer Consultants Association at http://www.icca.org for more information.
To get an idea of the going rate for computer consultants, check out Janet Ruhl's Computer Consultant's Resource Page at http://www.javanet.com/~technion/realco97.htm. This site lists rates charged by computer consultants worldwide, as reported in an online survey. Also included is an in-depth analysis of current trends as well as graphs depicting rates cross-indexed by region, specialty, years of experience, industry and contract length.
Names and ages: Jim Rahm, 43; Fred Brandes, 47; Barry Clapp, 46 (l. to r.); and Lee Freeman, 45 (not pictured)
Company name and description: Source Recovery Co. LLC uses a process invented by Brandes that recovers lines of source code (user-friendly languages such as COBOL used to program software applications) that are not updated when computers translate the code into computer-friendly machine language. Recovery of this code allows programmers to make changes in the application that would prevent Y2K-related malfunctions.
Based: Framingham, Massachusetts
Start-up costs: $500,000
First-year sales: just under $1 million
1997 sales: $1 million
Number of employees: 15
Clients: American Express, Bell Atlantic, Merrill Lynch, Nissan, Pratt & Whitney
Why the phone won't stop ringing any time soon: According to president Barry Clapp, "Every computer program in the world has to be evaluated to see if it can accommodate the year 2000. Fear of problems caused by the Y2K bug has forced companies to [examine] the source code of every application they have; we can recover missing source code. Anyone working on the Y2K problem will eventually need our services."
Plans for the morning after: "Our process is applicable regardless of the year. Y2K is just a turbocharger for our company," says Clapp. "In the years to come, there will be a resurgence of people wanting to keep their source code in better shape."
Family Computer Consulting Services, (718) 604-8531, firstname.lastname@example.org
Skyline International Travel Corp., (800) 758-9095, http://www.tiac.net/users/sitravel
Source Recovery Co., (508) 626-9955, http://www.source-recovery.com