Small IT company competes with global firms for state contract

The Wisconsin State Department of Administration recently put out an invite-only email and cloud computing request for information (RFI) for an upcoming project. Watertown-based KD Interactive was the only Wisconsin company invited to participate in the RFI, and the firm is competing against tech giants such as IBM, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco.

“There were only a few companies invited into the process,” said Dan Barnes, chief executive officer of KD Interactive. “It’s a big win for us, and if we’re selected, it will be a great opportunity for us to grow our firm even more.”

According to Barnes, the proposals for the RFI were submitted in July, and the next step will be the selection of firms for the request for proposals.

“Typically in this process they will bring in the three or so companies they like best and evaluate each company further,” Barnes said. “They’ll ask them more specific infrastructure related questions and delve deeper into our customer service techniques and the specific services we offer. It’s as close as you can come to getting a government contract without actually getting one.”

Barnes started conversations with the state more than a year ago, he said.

“I’ve known we’ve had a good product since the beginning. We just needed to show them that we could provide all of the services they need at a local level,” Barnes said.

KD Interactive is a hosted business solutions company that can provide and manage customized search-engine optimized web sites, e-mail, Microsoft Exchange integration, email archiving and e-discovery services and computer backup, Barnes said.

“We can basically host everything a company needs to function as a business and reduce the load of their overhead with our pay-for-what-you-need subscription model,” Barnes said. “We’re a service business, and we don’t outsource our call centers. When people need assistance they are actually talking to our experts, that’s key for us in handling any size contract.”

KD Interactive currently has a 9,000-square-foot space in Watertown for its 10 employees.

“While we may seem small, we leverage a network of hundreds of strategic partners across the globe and do business on an international level,” Barnes said.

The company has been in business for about 15 years, and most of the firm’s clients come from word of mouth or through client referrals, Barnes said.

“What we do is all we do, so we pride ourselves on being able to help companies with their IT needs so they can focus on what they do best,” he said. “Being small and leveraging the skill and expertise of our strategic partners when we need it allows us to be more agile than the larger tech moguls we compete against. It gives us the ability to be more responsive to what our customers needs are and bring on new technology that makes sense for customers and fits well with our current processes.”

Barnes believes the Wisconsin gubernatorial race will play a part in the timing process of the RFI.

“I suspect we won’t hear anything until the first quarter of 2011, after the next governor of the state of Wisconsin has been decided,” Barnes said. “Right now, the timing of the RFI process is unclear, and we’re not even sure if the money for the proposal will be factored into the budget for next year.”

“We feel like we present line item for line item the best solution for the state and can do it on a local level,” Barnes said. “Choosing our company means the tax dollars get spent locally, and we can expand the number of KD employees while also bringing high quality IT Jobs to the state of Wisconsin. We’ve handled other large contracts, but this would be a big win for our company and a big win for the community of Watertown.”

A representative from the state Department of Administration did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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