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Up against industry big guns, Third Day sees success

In less than four years, Third Day Solutions has proven that a tiny upstart company in Mississippi can rise from the rubble of corporate downsizing to emerge a pioneer in today’s fast-paced technology industry.

Third Day Solutions, LLC (TDS), named for the third day after Christ’s crucifixion, specializes in software development, support and information technology (IT) consulting services for state and local governments and private sector organizations.

But these are no ordinary services.
The company developed and implemented the Mississippi Student Information System (MSIS), the first Web-enabled comprehensive student information system of its kind in the nation that met the stringent No Child Left Behind guidelines. The application, eSPIRES, developed for the Mississippi Department of Education, was considered a breakthrough in new technology. TDS has worked with state education agencies in Illinois and Wisconsin, and recently won a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract with the Oklahoma State Department of Education to develop a similar system.

“Our small company went up against the big guns — IBM, Pearson Education and Maximus — and beat those guys because of the quality of our work,” said Ken Slay, consulting director for TDS. “Some people might lean toward bigger companies, thinking they have more depth and can therefore bring more resources to the table, but the balancing factor is that we have a much bigger stake in the success of the project. Our entire reputation — our bread and butter — is on the line.”

TDS was originally organized in 1978 as an IT consulting firm, a subsidiary of Conway Computer Group of Jackson. Nichols Research Corporation of Huntsville, Ala., which held numerous NASA contracts, acquired Conway and was later acquired by Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) of El Segundo, Calif., one of the nation’s top IT consulting firms that handles outsourced IT work for major corporations like DuPont and General Motors.

“Around the time of the dot-com bust, CSC decided to close the Jackson office,” explained Slay. “We still had clients in Mississippi, so we worked out an agreement with the company to keep the same core staff in place in Jackson and CSC allowed us to start a new company. We have been operating as TDS since December 2000.”

Assuring the staff and clients that the company would deliver and maintain services during the six-month transition period in 2000 was one of the biggest challenges for the firm “that went from being part of a billion-dollar corporation to being a tiny IT shop,” said Slay.

“We were in the latter stages of implementing the student information system for the state department of education when the transition occurred,” said another consulting director Rick Whitehead. “At the same time, CSC was giving some of our people pink slips. It was a real psychological shock, even though they knew we were going to hire them back. This key, large-scale project was in a critical phase of being completed and we didn’t have the luxury of putting it on hold for two weeks or a month until we reorganized. Delivering the system and keeping the project on schedule during this period of upheaval was very challenging.”

Developing and implementing systems for state education and court systems represent the lion’s share of TDS’ business. TDS developed and implemented a case management system to support the Tennessee Supreme Court and Appellate Courts.

“A few years ago, we developed a Judicial Information Tracking System to track all their court cases,” said Whitehead. “We’re currently implementing the Tennessee Indigent Expense System in Nashville at the AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts) for expenses related to defendants who cannot afford an attorney.”

The company has helped healthcare organizations comply with HIPAA regulations, and has also developed a reference guide, HIPAAssist, to facilitate privacy rule compliance. Wayne Harris, administrator of Simpson General Hospital, said TDS “did an outstanding job in providing our hospital with an initial assessment regarding the new HIPAA regulations.”

TDS also provides analysis and programming support through its production scheduling system for Vulcraft, a manufacturing company whose Alabama plant supplied joists for the construction of the new Nissan plant in Canton. “It’s not an assembly line, engineering-type system, but rather the administrative application that goes with it, such as ordering material, tracking inventory and job orders and costs,” said Slay.

The company has also developed a handheld computer application for law enforcement — to perform instant criminal background checks and facilitate writing tickets, among other functions — in an effort to move toward a paperless system.

“When we started the company, we had 11 employees,” said Whitehead. “Now less than four years later, counting subcontractors, we’re up to 27. Every day is a new day for us. The possibilities are exciting.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.


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