Monday, 8 August 2016

5 Points to Consider for IT Services Sales to Government Organizations

I have been working in government sector for last six years. In my opinion, the business landscape for sales of IT services in different governments / government organizations in India has been slowly changing over these years. Based on these observations, I have tried to list following five points for consideration of IT Services Sales professionals:-  
1.     Go Beyond the Power Point Presentations – Companies use Power Point Presentations (PPP) to explain their understanding about the assignment and to explain the solution they propose. Probably, now is time to go beyond Power Point Presentations (PPP) to explain the government customers about the capabilities of a company to perform any assignment. This means, while explaining the solution, in addition to the slide-pack, a live demonstration of functional products similar to the assignment or closely associated with the assignment could add meaningful value to the presentation session. Similarly, display of relevant papers (clear, concise and conclusive white papers or research results) published in reputed journals (and available online with comments, discussions and responses) help in establishing a company as a sensible and credible organization in professional fraternity.
2.     Go for Strategic Specialization - Government organizations are now having much better grip on understanding of IT (Information Technology) implementation and on managing IT projects. Critical differentiations in products and services, which result in enhanced project outcome do not go unnoticed by those professionals, who manage projects from government side. Similarly, advantages due to grip on industry vertical or excellence in project execution through tried and tested methodologies or improved quality of deliverables due to unique contributions from experienced professionals get recognized much better than ever before. Consistency in maintaining such type of differentiations in competitive market is not possible unless a focused and conscious effort to specialize in niche area, strategically suited to a company, is practiced with utmost sincerity. Time and again, it is stablished that in long runs Specialist beats Generalist. Therefore, it is worth to invest in specialization for improving long term business prospects.
3.     Go Market-Pull Way in Government Business Now – IT vendors and government organizations now have a better understanding on challenges of implementation of IT initiatives in government sector. At the same time, technology diffusion and technology adoption by larger population in recent times seem to be bringing socio-cultural changes in favor of extensive use of technology (by citizens at large) for getting associated with different agencies. Even many employees feel more comfortable to communicate through electronic means for day to day working in government offices. These developments seem to have made implementation of IT projects easier than ever before. But more importantly, these changes are indicating vendors for a shift from Technology Push towards Market (Public) Pull strategy as the demand for technology is getting generated at the level of beneficiaries (or at times end users of product and services). So, now the companies having aspirations to become a vendor for governments can identify a need and develop (or customize) products and services to best fit the identified need in the proposals sent to government organizations. If public procurement is done at right timing and if a suitable product / services with right positioning in market is selected through procurement process, public pull may help in ensuring successful implementation of IT projects. This is in contrast to earlier times, when vendors had promising technology at hand for government organizations to use but making the government organizations and end users (beneficiaries) understand the value added benefits from technology used to be quite a challenge. In those times, vendors used to “push” technology through the bureaucratic (government) organizations first and if they succeeded then they used to push the technology down to implementing team and eventually to beneficiaries.
4.     Go Beyond Conventional Turnkey Projects and Look for Smaller Opportunities – The latest trend in IT related government procurement appears to be in favor of avoiding large RFPs (Request for Proposals) with multiple consortium partners, with hidden complexities, with unknown risks and with detailed requirements (which takes a year to gather). Instead, the preference is shifting towards developing agile procurement capability to deliver incremental agency value on a regular basis through bringing on-board specialized vendors for every logical piece of work. IT hardware procurement (which is more of a product purchase with huge Capex expenditure) is usually segregated from IT software services (which is more of a service purchase with dominant Opex expenditure). In the new arrangement of small and specific tenders, mid-sized niche players get a chance to compete, to perform their piece of task with perfection and get the payment released quickly.
5.     Go for Excellence in Delivery – Nothing can establish a company much better than the quality of delivery. In long run, this holds true even for government sector, which is increasingly getting quality conscious. In this regards, many experts believe that pressure to perform on government organizations is slowly changing the way public procurement is done in government organizations and concerns of departments are shifting towards delivered products / services in addition to the budget and UCs (Utilization Certificates).  
I believe that despite the fact that procurement is done through free and fair tenders in government sector (in which pricing is believed to play critical role despite QCBS – Quality and Cost Based System of procurement), the relative excellence in delivery holds the backbone for continuous business prospects. All this is more relevant to IT product / services where quality of professionals and professional services make the critical difference.  
In my opinion, howsoever good the sales team be or how so good the management be, the genuine competitive advantage for an IT Service Company can be attributed to a clear strategy and to the quality of delivery (of product and services) done by the technical team. Therefore, strategic investment on technology excellence and on nurturing technical team to boost performance and to acquire new skills contributes significantly to continuous sales prospects in larger span of time.   

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