The internet is just one technology you use every day. As a marketer, you collect and analyze data. You might even use location information or some type of artificial intelligence or machine learning application. You likely don’t think about how these technologies came to be or how they were able to grow into useful tools, but that story often involves the US Federal Government.
The government’s role in technology goes back to the very beginnings of the institution itself. It helped create some of the first canals, locks and turnpikes. And eventually, the government managed to win the race to the moon. That’s not a bad track record.
For all of the technologies the government helped develop, it’s also true that the government sector moves slowly. Today, most government agencies are trying to navigate technology in an environment that includes:
- A number of legacy applications that are too costly and mission critical for rip-and-replace modernization.
- Several layers of bureaucracy that hinder technology decisions and acquisitions.
- Budgets derived from a lengthy process that’s driven more by politics than the needs or wants of the agencies.
A backdrop like this requires a different approach to marketing than you’d use to engage with for-profit businesses.
5 tips for reaching prospects at federal agencies
The federal government is enormous. That means it’s full of opportunities for technology vendors and their marketing teams. Within the government, each agency has its own mission, its own constituents and its own existing technology footprint. So how do you start conversations and build relationships across this broad spectrum?
Here are five conversations that are taking place in nearly every corner of the federal government. The common thread is transformation. If you’re tired of the term “digital transformation,” you can also think of it as modernization. Either way, the technology government agencies rely on needs to evolve, and the agencies know that.
Help government agencies with legacy applications
The legacy applications that help run some of the largest federal agencies (like the Internal Revenue Service) were not built with the modern IT infrastructure in mind. Today’s systems need to communicate to share data and enable efficient business processes.
IT leaders often talk about removing data silos. These silos are usually the result of legacy applications that are unable to share data. They prevent organizations from getting a complete picture of their operations and create inefficiencies in the process.
There are “six R’s” that IT organizations can consider when migrating applications. They are: rehosting, re-platforming, re-factoring, re-purchasing, retiring and replacing. Completely tearing out legacy applications and replacing them with something else is costly and time consuming. It’s also nearly impossible because they hold vast amounts of data and play a vital role in day-to-day agency operations.
The preferred approach to removing data silos is often to keep the legacy application in place and use integration technologies like application programming interfaces (APIs) to make the data portable. Other integration approaches can be used as well, including microservices and low-code development tools.
If you can help federal government agencies integrate their legacy systems, remove data and operational silos and gain better visibility into their systems and operations, they’ll want to hear what you have to say.
Modernize the customer experience
Companies in sectors like retail and software-as-a-service (SaaS) spend a lot of energy on customer experience. They aim to quickly and easily show customers what they’re looking for, give them a price and close the sale.
So why are we talking about this in terms of the government agencies? Because you shop at a website with a top-notch customer experience, perhaps using a mobile device, and then leave the site feeling satisfied. Then you go online to interact with a government agency and the experience is lacking, if it’s available at all.
As “digital natives” make up a larger percentage of their constituents, government agencies need to meet the demand for online interactions, including the ability to complete tasks using mobile devices. The legacy systems we discussed earlier weren’t designed to deliver these experiences.
Online interactions, when done well, cost less than staffing call centers. That means agencies that deliver on the experience create more satisfied users and gain budget flexibility. And if the technology you’re marketing can help them get there, they’ll want to talk.
Increase efficiency and uncover savings
Inefficiency is to be expected from large bureaucracies. This is especially true when they are decentralized, with offices and employees all over the world.
The federal government is taking steps to control its spending on information technology. It is promoting the use of cloud computing to help control its data center expenses, for example. Best practices such as application rationalization are encouraged by organizations like the CIO Council to create visibility and align spending with agency missions.
Still, politicians and government watchdogs love to scream about wasteful spending and make demands for more transparency. Whether the accusations are justified is another topic (though it is true the IRS once found it had more than 100 different case management systems in use). But the calls for more efficient spending, more transparency and more accountability are a fact of life in the government sector.
What this means for technology vendors and their marketers is that applications that promote this kind of visibility and transparency by helping track spending and demonstrate alignment are in demand from government agencies. The same can be said for more modern pricing models like pay-for-consumption or monthly or annual licensing.
Making government procurement easier
Another fact of life in a large bureaucracy is complexity. The procurement process in the federal government is a perfect example. Government contracts and procurement are so complex that your ability to help government employees navigate their own process can actually act as one of your differentiators.
One way to do this is by showcasing your experience with other government agencies. Working with the government is a little like joining a fancy club. Once you’re in, there are a number of benefits available to you. But just getting in the door is the hard part. If you’re in the door, you have an immediate advantage. Let them know about it.
The path to government contracts is a little easier for certain classes of businesses that are historically under-represented when it comes to government work. These include businesses owned by minorities, women, service-disabled veterans and more. If your business qualifies for these unique considerations, make sure your prospects in the government space are aware.
Understand Technology Business Management (TBM)
Technology Business Management, or TBM as it’s commonly known, is a framework designed to align IT spending with business outcomes. Federal government agencies are being asked to adopt TBM by 2022, which means if you want to talk tech to government prospects, TBM is a language you should learn to speak.
Traditionally, IT investments have been tracked by the number of servers purchased or software licenses procured. When accounted for in this manner, IT is always seen as a cost center. The TBM framework aims to align investments with business value and outcomes.
When done well, TBM increases transparency around IT spending. It can help government agencies connect the dots by demonstrating, for example, how their development tools, their database investment and their user interface resources were used to build an online system of engagement that saved the agency millions of dollars. That’s a far better business story than simply listing the expenditures alone.
One of the pieces of classic advice given to marketers is to meet their prospects where they are. For government IT decision makers, that’s often in an area where every dollar needs to count and where transparency and accountability are on the rise. Recognize that reality and show them how your firm can help.
TechnologyAdvice can help your organization generate more demand, in the government sector and beyond. To learn more, visit: https://solutions.technologyadvice.com/.