Monthly Archives: June 2019


New reader A. Grande of New York, NY writes, “I’m a contract administrator for a mid-size IT re-seller.  The training classes I’ve been to say that my company should be reporting errors and delivery problems, but we don’t.  My senior vice president says it will all be ok and that I shouldn’t worry.  The pile of things we haven’t done, though, seems to be really adding up?  Can you suggest something?”  Great question, A.  It can be tough to see potential contract violations go unaddressed in a company.  At best, your company is making a bet with their own, or their investors’, money.  At worst, they’re potentially exposing both themselves and the company to significant fines if problems are uncovered.  It can be tough to be heard sometimes as a lower-level employee.  If your SVP won’t listen, try another route. Most contractors should have anonymous hotlines where potential problems are reported.  They’re usually set up so that people in legal or compliance get the information, not people in a specific business line.  This is definitely a best practice.  If your company doesn’t have one, though, try your contract manager or legal counsel’s office.  While there is a tendency to put off potential problems so long as business is coming in the front door, ignoring problems won’t make them go away.  They can and do get worse.  It’s good to be concerned.  Sing out to someone who will hear you.


Funding for the federal CIO office would go down by nearly half, to $15 million under a bill passed by House appropriators this week, a surprising potential cut from a Democratically controlled body that has traditionally favored overall IT investments in the federal space, including centralized IT management.  In the meantime, though, the House bill would fund the Technology Modernization Fund at $35 million, a boost of new money that could enable more projects to proceed.  These are among the early signs of where Congress may allocate funds for IT and related spending next fiscal year.  Not surprising was the withholding of any money that would allow GSA to merge with the Office of Personnel Management.  Although some functions have already been transferred to GSA, Congress is skeptical overall of placing the two agencies together.  This area may shape up to be a fight later in the appropriations cycle.  In the meantime, contractors should pay closer attention than usual to where Congress allocates federal IT money as it is likely to differ more than usual from the President’s budget request submitted earlier this year.  Expect Congress to assert more of its own priorities.  GSA contractors, meanwhile, should not see too much of an impact in the day to day workings of the agency from the uncertainty surrounding its status with OPM.  There is only a small cadre of people working on the project and involvement outside of that group only at the senior-most levels of the agency.


Even as GSA moves ahead with its e-commerce portal project, individual agencies have either initiated pilots or are thinking about it.  The ease of use and real-time buying capabilities of these portals offer strong incentives for agencies to use them.  In addition, each platform offers substantial spend analysis features, enabling agencies to better manage their budgets and make smarter buying decisions.  Sounds like a no-brainer, right?  Peel back the cover, though, and there are some plot twists to this story.  First, agencies must consider how they want to compare pricing available via platforms.  Is it enough that prices on commercial e-commerce platforms are likely lower than the open market prices agencies obtain today when they make micro-purchases, or will pricing have to match or beat prices available through standing contracts like the GSA Schedules program?  One answer may be that slightly higher prices are seen as acceptable when the near-real-time availability of spend analysis is factored in.  Some agencies, though, may insist on the lower price.  Second, secure supply chains must be addressed.  Commercial e-commerce providers vary widely in how they vet the items sold through their platforms.  Some pay more attention to the authenticity of goods than others.  At a time when secure supply chains are viewed as essential, how will agency leaders manage e-commerce platform acquisitions to ensure that only the items that should be purchased are?  It is already an established fact that most agencies use E-Bay to obtain replacements for items that are out of production.  Whether it’s that platform, or another, the risk must be appropriately managedE-Commerce offers many potential benefits to the federal market but, like any other acquisition option, this tool must be used responsibly and under the right circumstances.


Government agencies get criticized for not moving quickly enough to adopt new technologies or processes.  Indeed, “agile” has been a watchword in government acquisition for several years now.  You’d think that contractors, themselves, could bend in any direction and run a sub-4 minute mile based on their advertising.  How agile really, though, is your organization?  How many layers of approval do you have to get to respond to a customer, send out a press release, or speak with a potential partner?  Too often contractors can be just as bogged down by internal processes as their government clients.  It’s great to send out a press release on the contract award you got on June 1st, but not so great if you can’t get it out the door till June 10th.  By then, the news cycle has turned several times.  Similarly, you’ve just gotten an e-mail from a prospective customer.  They want to see you next week about an actual project.  You look at your calendar and see almost no white space, with much of the calendar being devoted to internal BD meetings.  Putting the customer off can cost you an opportunity, ironically while you’re sitting in a conference room talking about opportunities.  Yes, processes can exist for a reason, but if your organization is a slave to process, it’s a cinch you’re not adept enough at moving at the speed of your customer’s need.  Getting out the scissors to cut through internal red tape might be the best thing you can do to boost your chances of closing federal business this summer


Welcome to the third quarter of the fiscal year.  The heat is up in both the market and outside.  It’s time for your company to shift strategies and tactics now that we’re moving closer into the federal busy season.  Here are a few tips to put your company in the best position to win:  1. Don’t expect a lot more “meet and greet” meetings this year.  Federal customers are increasingly defining project scopes and doing acquisition planning for what they’re going to purchase for the rest of the year.  That leaves little time to talk with newer entries.  You may be better off focusing on agencies with which you have existing contacts.  2.  Coordinate your marketing and sales efforts.  The Washington, D.C. airwaves are already full of contractor advertisements.  That’s earlier than normal, but it shows the importance of being able to get your message across in broadcast mediums so that it coordinates well with sales efforts.  There’s still time to conduct a coordinated strategic campaign.  Tactical marketing can come later.  3.  Strengthen your partner relationships.  September is not the time to go looking for a company that has the contract vehicle your prospective customer “has” to use.  Now is.  Make sure you have good relationships with companies that hold Best In Class and other contracts, small businesses, or niche players with unique solutions.  Q3 isn’t pre-season, but building a strong team now ensures that you can go deep into the September playoffs and win.  With so many agencies likely playing catch up for the rest of the year, business shouldn’t be dull.  Make sure you’ve laid the groundwork for your own success.