Government software buyers, lend me your ears! If you are a business owner who is contemplating funding a transformational engagement, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that the system you desire is the one you get. And, you get it at a fair price.
Leverage Member Organizations
First, use your advantage as a member of a community of buyers. Many of you are part of consortiums or groups of like organizations, such as the Texas Council of Governments (here’s a link to the Northwest Central Texas Council of Governments, and the California Association of Councils of Governments), whereby county governments in close geographic proximity join forces to consolidate buying power, among other things. Leveraging existing contract vehicles from a member organization can get you up and running faster and reduce the TCO for an engagement. Beyond the tangible cost savings, valuable relationships can also be developed with member organizations that can foster: shared learning, regional best practices, and a sounding board for ideas and strategies. It’s the relationships that can become the most valuable aspects of these consortiums. So, reach out and start a conversation with a neighboring county or city.
Maximize Opportunities by way of Team Efficiency
Second, once you have signed a contract, make sure you can allocate time to your top performers to help ensure you have a clear scope and quality high-level design for your engagement. These individuals must be open to process improvements that will better align with a COTS package. They simply cannot be a top producer with a vast amount of institutional knowledge; rather, they must be capable of seeing the big picture. Projects can be tremendous catalysts for prudent process reengineering, and a good business analyst or project manager will have their eyes open to these opportunities. Then, you must keep them formally involved during the later phases of the implementation. Make this a project issue if you must. The intrinsic knowledge of your staff is extremely valuable, but you have to plan for leveraging it. I would attack it like a business case—business owners appreciate having someone articulate to them how the allocation of some of their top talent would benefit them and help improve the efficiency of their operation.
Discover Vendor Insights
Lastly, make a concerted effort to investigate the vendors in the market. I’m not talking about only online research, although that is important. Attend a conference where some of the vendors in the marketplace are presenting, and reach out directly to any of their customers. As a former government buyer myself, I would be less inclined to answer a vendor call, but never missed a call from a fellow IT or Business Professional at another government agency or organization. Those insights can be extremely valuable, not only from a feature/function perspective but also from a procurement, negotiation, and staffing perspective. Not to mention the relationships you build. If you’re contemplating a serious software automation endeavor, talk to someone you trust and make sure these bases are covered.
We’ll talk about some other “must-do’s” next time!