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What Federal Buyers Want You To Know

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FCW, unofficial rules, thought leaders, Judy Bradt, small business, contracting, federal sales, procurement

Federal Computer Week recently asked thought leaders for their keys to federal business success. They offered 29 "Unofficial Rules". Here's the curious thing: the article was intended primarily for an audience of Federal IT leaders within government, but I liked the insight they offered for contractors -- including and beyond IT! Many thanks to Federal Computer Week for these quotes. Here are my favorites, and why.

ONE: Culture affects how an agency gets things done.

Each agency's culture and process is different. What has experience shown you that's distinct about the culture of your current agency clients? How do you know? What do you know about the culture of the ones you hope to work with? Again, how do you know that – experience or stereotype?

• Take time to understand the culture of the agency. Typically, government career staffers tend to be risk-averse and often view outside executives with skepticism. It's important to understand the underlying governance model to discover the potential enablers and derailers of your priorities.
— Venkatapathi "PV" Puvvada, president of Unisys Federal

• Take the time to understand why an agency runs the way it does. When faced with an IT program that was over budget, behind schedule and not delivering the promised functionality, a former boss commented, "That turtle didn't get on the fence post by itself."
— Alan Balutis, a distinguished fellow and senior director at Cisco Systems and former Commerce Department CIO

TWO: Know the players. All of them.

In every target agency, you'll need a complete network of advocates on your side. That includes the contracting officer and contracting specialists, end users, and small business specialists. It includes current and potential primes and subs as well as "influencers" lurking on social media. Who do you know? Who do you need to know, and how can you meet them?

• Always determine the community of interest for your project. Find the individuals who will assert influence and their positions relative to your success. Then work with them with focus and determination. Know the terrain, work the floor, and know who is out there.
— Scott Hastings, partner at Deep Water Point and former CIO of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

• If you want to get any substantive change accomplished, identify your stakeholders and ensure that they are part of the change process. Many people have a veto in government.
— Richard Spires, CEO of Learning Tree and former Department of Homeland Security CIO

• The jobs may change, but the faces remain the same. Never needlessly annoy people because despite the size and scope of the federal government, you will run into the same people over and over again as leaders transit through careers that span industry and periodic returns to government service.
— David M. Wennergren executive vice president of the Professional Services Council and former Navy CIO and DOD executive

THREE: Start small. Be persistent.

There's nothing fast or easy about federal business. First and foremost, your government buyer is one of the most risk-averse buyers on earth! That's because they're betting their career on you when they pick you. One failed project can stand between them and their next promotion. It always takes more patience and persistence than you expect to get to know your customers...and for them to begin to trust you. Look for small opportunities and projects, and build on past performance.

• The Rule of Patience: Due to regulations, bureaucracy and politics, things take twice as long to accomplish in government as what one can expect in the private sector.
— Richard Spires, CEO of Learning Tree and former DHS CIO

• Treat every decision as if the inspector general's office is second-guessing you. It is.
— Roger Baker, former VA CIO and Agilex executive

FOUR: Have some faith.

As your customers begins to trust you, contractors and agency clients realize you are on the same team and have a shared vision, you also share the long term commitment to make things work, despite challenges, delays and obstacles

• Regardless of party, each administration wants to have infrastructure and programs that work.
— Ira Hobbs, former CIO at the Treasury Department and deputy CIO at USDA

• Always keep the budget battles in perspective. When asked about how the budget / appropriations process was going, my then-boss always used to say, "Worse than last year. But not as bad as next year."
— Alan Balutis, a distinguished fellow and senior director at Cisco Systems and former Commerce Department CIO

THE FOUNDATION: If you remember just ONE thing...

70% of these insights are not about process or vehicles or rules or budgets. Your key to success is people. Mary Davie put it perfectly:

• It's all about the relationships.
— Mary Davie, assistant commissioner for integrated technology services at the General Services Administration

Mon, 10/10/2016 - 1:16pm

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