Cyber security and the transition to cloud solutions remain the top two federal information technology priorities. With over two-thirds of the federal IT budget spent maintaining legacy systems, it means that these priorities can dominate your customers spending on “new” solutions. Yet, it’s not really news that cyber and cloud are “in.” How can you set yourself apart in a crowded field?
Step one is to become as smart as possible about what your target agencies needs are. Military service branches have different missions than ICE and TSA. Even agencies not traditionally thought of as having cyber needs, like HHS, VA and Education have requirements, but each differ from one another, and sometimes even from department to department.
Next up is matching your solutions with those requirements. Military specifications, for example, may matter little to a civilian agency customer and, worse; give the impression that you’re offering a “one size fits all” approach in a diverse market. You also can’t take for granted that your prospect knows everything they need to know (though some may think so).
If you find that your solution isn’t an easy fit, it’s better to move on than to try and cut it to size. The market of cyber providers is simply too crowded for a federal agency to go with something that doesn’t match well. Conversely, your solution will fit better with the next customer than someone else’s.
There are over $13 billion play for cyber solutions in FY’15. It pays to have done your homework. While the recommendations here may seem obvious, there are many contractors that don’t follow them. Talk to any fed and they will give you a long list of things contractors don’t do, or do incorrectly, during the BD process. Don’t be one of these.
Cloud, too, continues to be a high priority. Over $7 billion will be spent by federal agencies on cloud solutions in FY’15. The real number may be much higher, as “cloud” becomes a ubiquitous part of many IT solutions.
While it’s also true here, as it is with cyber, that cloud solutions differ, there’s actually more confusion over the “what, where, and why” of cloud than you might think. Be prepared to differentiate your cloud solution from someone else’s, especially if your solution differs from the traditional storage and app areas. Experience has shown that cloud success is closely tied to being able to lead a client step-by-step through their uncertainty.
Federal agencies are also now required to buy cloud solutions that are FedRAMP approved. If your solution isn’t, be prepared to show that it’s in the approval process and just how secure it is in any case. FedRAMP, and similar cloud standards, continue to evolve, as well. Make sure you’re up to speed on what the current and future requirements are.
One other factor to keep in mind when offering any IT solution in the federal market is “how.” Federal agencies buy at least half of their IT solutions, including cloud and cyber, through standing contracts. Contracts such as the GSA Multiple Award Schedules, Alliant, NASA SEWP, and others, are open to all agencies. DOD buyers will also use the Army’s ITES-2, Navy Seaport-E, and Air Force NETCENTS2.
Your company should hold, or be a partner to someone who does hold, several of these contract vehicles. If you’re selling against someone who has one and you don’t, your company could be at a competitive disadvantage.
The good news is that there are substantial opportunities in the federal market for cyber and cloud solutions. Make sure you’ve set yourself apart and made it easy for your customer to do business with you in order to get your share.
Larry Allen will be sharing additional insights on trends in the federal market during the Comstor Federal Summit. Stay tuned to EDGE360 for additional coverage from the event.