How Government Agencies Can Engage Top Vendors

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Over the past few years, there’s been an increasing problem in government contracting: fewer and fewer vendors want to do business within it. This is putting agencies in a tight spot. Many need new solutions, and naturally want the top technology available. But, given the small pool of companies responding to their RFPs, the systems they’re offered may or may not be the best, or even fulfill their ideal criteria. 

 

Where Have the Options Gone? 

Governments face many challenges that technology today can solve, but many best-of-breed solutions are built by small companies or startups. Unfortunately, these businesses are often reluctant to do business with government agencies. Sometimes, they’re put off by the complex procurement regulations and protracted RFI/RFP process. Other times, there’s simply a lack of awareness that an agency is facing a challenge that their solution can solve, so they don’t consider them as customers. 

 

Engaging Top Vendors

The reality is that there’s no quick or easy fix for this situation. After all, procurement reform and process streamlining can take a long time and may involve legislation. But, there are still steps that agencies can take to engage with vendors and be given better options. 


Engage with the vendor community early on. 

Buying and selling, whether in government or in the private sector, is often about relationships. If you don’t get in front of the people who are creating solutions you might benefit from, how can they be aware of your needs?

One easy way to ensure you’re interacting with the vendor community is to create a page on your agency’s website, explicitly called “Vendors.” Make it very clear that this section is for them, so anyone browsing your site will take a look and see all the potential opportunities there might be to serve your agency. 


Publish your plans. 

A lack of vendor knowledge about your needs can stand between you and best of breed technology. To that end, publish both your agency’s five-year strategic plan and the IT Strategic plan so the vendor community knows the agency and IT roadmap. This can help them start to find areas in which they might be able to support your goals, and be proactive about it. 

It’s also helpful if you take it a step further. Spell out the biggest IT challenges that your agency is trying to solve over the next one to five years. For example, maybe you’re having to phase out a legacy system that will be obsolete in two years’ time. If a vendor has an even better replacement that offers the same functionality and more, they can start having conversations with you well before there’s immense pressure to get a new system in place. 


Get ahead of objections. 

Remember that small businesses and startups are often intimidated by the government’s procurement regulations and RFI/RFP process, so you must be proactive in showing that you work well with these types of companies. 

For example, you can send a representative from your agency to participate in startup events, accelerator programs, and pitch competitions to engage with–and–support startup communities. Another idea is to highlight any successful collaborations with startups you’ve already had, through case studies and success stories. This can inspire confidence and attract more startups to work with your agency. 

While it’s unfortunate that smaller numbers of companies want to do business with the government, it doesn’t mean that your options in terms of technology have to be limited, too. By putting in some proactive work to make more vendors aware of your agency’s needs and plans, you can do a lot to change this status quo and get the partners and solutions you need. 

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