What government buyers should seek in choosing a supplier (with related video)
Editor’s note: Here is another in our GPN series on strategies and tactics that federal marketers and buyers can use as the end of the federal fiscal year nears on Sept. 30.
I have had the privilege of both providing and purchasing products and services in the government sector for a number of decades. As the end of the government fiscal year approaches, I would like to examine the qualities government buyers should look for in suppliers when it comes to making year-end decisions.
In a word, it’s leadership. Buyers should seek vendors who immerse themselves in a target agency and ask the right questions as if they were a senior official in that agency, with a clear understanding of the mission, vision and goals. The vendor’s proposals should help make the buyer look good with targeted plans that exhibit a leadership mentality from the agency perspective rather than solely from a selling point-of-view.
This creates trust with the buyer and provides the proper outlook to present fiscal year-end proposals that will assist the agency in meeting its mission, vision and goals. Helping an agency plan fiscal year-end purchasing decisions is analogous to the NFL draft, where teams must conduct extensive due-diligence ahead of time and be well-prepared and flexible to adapt to a multitude of scenarios as the moment of truth approaches.
Fiscal Year-End Purchasing Rationale
Vendors should have an understanding of long- and near-term compelling events and associated critical success factors associated with an agency’s mission, vision and goals, to be at the ready with solutions using fiscal year-end funds. Conceptually, proposals and associated success factors should be based on a two-track system with an ongoing set of solutions for both long-term and emerging ideas for near-term or sudden compelling events. While some short-term compelling events are so major in scope and obvious that it would be unlikely and highly irresponsible to miss them, others require a level of focus and knowledge that could result in a vendor pointing out a critical issue that key players in the agency missed.
The timing for being prepared to propose use of end-of-year money continues to move to earlier and earlier in the year. Government decision makers should expect proposals by late April or early May at the latest to appropriately position themselves for year-end funds. If not, agencies will select alternate options given competitive realities and the desire to secure future spending levels by exhausting existing budgets.
Sidney Mair is senior vice president of Federal Systems at Penguin Computing. The Fremont, Calif.-based company provides high performance computing, data center and cloud solutions for the government and private sectors. For well over a decade the firm has been a developer of open, Linux-based cloud and high-performance computing solutions.
In the video, Phil Pokorny of Penguin Computing describes the company’s Tundra OpenHPC hardware based on the Open Computing Project standard.