Some spin-off companies forfeit free-flowing communication and access to the parent company’s resources. Wall Street giants like AT&T, Hewlett Packard and 3-M Corporation have spawned struggling stand-alone enterprises like Lucent, Agilent and Imation. Fortunately other new generation firms continue to work well with their parent companies. Witness Colorado DataScapes, a privately-held Colorado Springs operation. With complete intra-company cooperation and shared resources, this three-year old spin-off of Nakata Planning Group is enjoying tremendous success.
Brothers-in-law and partners, Kevin Leonard, Colorado DataScapes’ Executive Vice President and Erik Angles, Vice President, worked together for four years at Nakata prior to starting their specialized firm. They have transformed a previously in-house custom software development department to a finely-tuned operation, ready to enter new markets and to handle the most sophisticated data projects. Both honed their skills on government and military mapping and planning projects secured by Nakata prior to the creation of Colorado DataScapes. “We first worked for Nakata Planning Group – and now we work with them,” says Leonard. “Three of the principals at Nakata are in partnership with us, and the result has been a win for both companies.”
The firm provides software development and consulting services from the ground up. “Since we are not only coders, we analyze our clients’ needs very carefully before recommending and creating a scope of work,” Erik Angles points out. “If a prospect is better served with off-the-shelf commercial software, that’s what we’ll suggest. Not everyone is a candidate for what we do – but for any business that is struggling with customized data management, tracking and reporting issues, we are the solution.”
In addition to customizing existing applications or building new interfaces to existing data, the eight-person Colorado DataScapes team sets up Access databases, engineers enterprise-level SQL servers and orchestrates Oracle implementations. The company is also experienced in the areas of web-based applications, web-based mapping and reporting via Crystal reports (desktop and web-based). Along with core coding capacity, the company is also hired to do full needs assessments, requirements analysis, design project management/integration and consulting.
To date, 75 percent of Colorado DataScapes work has come from military and government contracts. “We served both as a prime and a subcontractor in the proposal process,” Leonard notes. Many of the company’s projects still come as a subcontractor to Nakata Planning Group, which specializes exclusively in military contracts. “Our goal is to grow the 25 percent of our business that is currently commercial or non-military,” Leonard asserts. “We haven’t really spent any time in marketing. We usually just get calls from people who have found us on the Internet or heard about us from other clients.” Only last month Colorado DataScapes received a call from an Arizona man who was looking for a firm that could develop custom mapping and GIS applications. Most of the company’s clients seek enterprise-wide systems that will support entire business operations. “We pride ourselves in being able to handle data management projects from tracking sales calls all the way through production, fulfillment, shipping and post-sale reporting,” says Angles. One of the company’s newest projects has been to create real-time messaging for companies that use computer screen pop-ups to alert various sales or management members when important customers call. “Our goal is to provide access and transfer of any information that needs to be managed,” Leonard says.
One of the company’s most active clients is the U.S. Army and its Crusader Weapon System. The project, headquartered in Yuma, Arizona, requires that real-time mapping and geographical data from various sources be delivered to a “central screen”. The application developed by Colorado DataScapes is named QV™ Manager, and combines data sources including GPS devices; various pitch, yaw, roll, elevation and position information; radar and weather sources. Specifically, Colorado DataScapes provides software and database support (live data feeds), tabular output, spatial output using MapObjects™, and real-time animation of 3-D models.
The Colorado DataScapes staff is small but mighty with eight full-time employees and three partners at the Nakata Planning Group. “Four of our six software developers are currently MicroSoft certified, and the other two are working on it,” says Leonard. “We have to attribute much of our success so far to our highly trained and expert staff. We have very little turnover – and we really do work to be the best at what we do.” Angles agrees. “One of our missions,” he says, “ is to help our clients get exactly what they want and need.”
Colorado DataScapes has learned much from its Nakata Planning Group roots about winning government contracts. “From the start we got registered as a GSA schedule-holder which means that we have been approved to contract directly with any department seeking a proposal for software development services,” Angles adds. The company also regularly partners with outsourcing partners in the fields of hardware development and network design – relationships which also provide occasional marketing leads.
To date, more than half of the firm’s work comes from Colorado-based contacts, but that could change, especially in view of the country’s new emphasis on Homeland security. “We have been in some new discussions as a result of what happened on September 11th,” Leonard notes.
Just as the Pikes Peak region seems poised to become the center for software and surveillance technology to support the U.S. military in the war on terrorism, Colorado DataScapes seems ideally suited for its role. Angles and Leonard agree that they are both enjoying every aspect of their business. “At Colorado DataScapes, we’ve developed systems that can actually track a bullet in the air, and we’re working with the U.S. Navy on testing the impact of depth charges on submarines. It’s interesting work. There’s nothing like helping a client find a solution to an “unsolvable” problem,” says Angles.