Navigating Government Procurement
Jun 6, 2011 4:01 PM, Provided by InfoComm International
Trying to win contracts with federal or state government is a confusing and daunting task for companies uninitiated to the protocols, procedures, and documentation required of them. Unlike working in the commercial market, the government has an entirely different set of rules, timing, and measures for their contractors. However, there are certain aspects of the job that don’t change, such as marketing, relationship building, and customer service.
“It can be difficult to find the right procurement person, but if you want to get government business, get with the procurement people,” explains Bill DeFusco, director of special projects for AMX. Prior to joining AMX, DeFusco spent years in the Marine Corps, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the CIA, as well as a commercial career at Dell. “The best avenue is via existing contracts such as coming in as a subcontractor with a prime contractor. It is difficult for small AV dealers to win a big contract, but there are always opportunities. You should still try.”
“People look at government work as if they need to take it on all at once. Have a specific opportunity in mind. Find a particular contract as a baseline and then take on government work incrementally. You need a sales channel as well as a contract vehicle so it’s important to develop it,” says Rand Allen, chair of the government contracts group for law firm Wiley Rein.
“The government literally buys everything,” Allen says. “So the need is for government contractors to understand the implications of dealing with the federal government contracts on all levels.”
The major difference with government work versus commercial work is due process. “One element of a procurement official’s job is to ensure that the process is fair to all interested parties. It means ensuring the prospective vendors’ due process right to compete. The private sector doesn’t have to justify their vendors, but we do,” says Kent Allin, director of materials management and chief state procurement officer for the State of Minnesota, as well as co-author of the book Navigating Government Procurement.
“There is a legal cause of action to challenge a procurement decision if the vendor feels they were unfairly excluded. That doesn’t happen in the commercial world.”
“Government contracting has different standards of laws and regulations. Federal procurement regulations control every single element of government business including sales, proposals, and accounting,” says Patrick Malyszek, president of M3 Federal Contract Practice Group.
The government’s budget for 2010 was $3.55 trillion dollars. That’s a lot of money changing hands. This market is one of the few areas that can’t cut back its spending quickly, making it a very alluring fallback for contractors suffering cutbacks in commercial markets. “When the economy is good, people stay away from government work due to the power and influence of the government and concern over intellectual property rights,” Malyszek says.
But when the economy isn’t great, contractors who don’t normally pursue government work flood the market. “After the dot com bust, tech companies rushed to the federal market. After 9/11, security firms rushed to the market. And now with the Great Recession and the stimulus bill, a broader cross-section of companies is coming into the government market,” Allen says.
The above piece is excerpted from InfoComm International’s Navigating Government Procurement Special Report. To review the report in its entirety, please visit infocomm.org.
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