8 Tips for Making Smart IT Buying Decisions this Federal Year-End

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Federal fiscal year-end is the busiest season for government IT spending. With only a few weeks left to spend the $3.8 trillion apportioned in Uncle Sam’s 2016 budget, the pressure is on to spend prudently and procure efficiently.

But with growing media and public concern that year-end spending is wasteful, how can your agency make smart IT investments of tax payer dollars come September 30?

Here are some tips for choosing the right kind of partner to help you make smarter IT purchasing decisions, with an eye on long term value.

1. Go beyond a list of contract vehicles, look for contracting expertise – A range of contracting options is important, but look for vendors who have the in-house knowledge to educate you on how each contract works and how it can benefit your agency, while making the procurement process efficient and pain free.

2. Are they accessible and responsive? – With the “use it or lose it” deadline hanging over procurement teams, you need fast, responsive service. What’s their quote turnaround time? Do they have a track record to back-up that RFQ pledge? Do they offer live chat and extended hours so that you can get the response you need, when you need it?

3. What self-service tools do they offer for easier procurement? – Whether you’re looking to streamline and centralize the procurement process, have complete online transparency into acquisition activity, or better manage the lifecycle of enterprise license agreements, ask your vendor about their portfolio of customer-centric online tools.

4. Can they provide reporting and ROI across the lifecycle of your acquisitions? – Agencies face pressure from CIOs to provide metrics and quantify ROI for cooperative purchasing agreements. Does the vendor have the tools and resources that can help you report on procurement activity, down to the sub-organization or program level? What about trend analysis and metrics to help you quantify the ROI of your purchases?

5. What about financing and leasing options? Do they provide flexible and compliant federal government leasing options, such as lease to ownership (LTOP) and lease with option to purchase (LWOP) plans?

6. Don’t forget regulatory expertise– With contracts come regulations. Procurement officials are under pressure to spend those year-end dollars quickly, but they must also do so while adhering to regulatory guidance and acquisition rules. Can your vendor help you navigate these hurdles with compliance in mind?

7. How savvy are they when it comes to government IT imperatives and mandates?– Because much of the government’s IT is procured through resellers, it’s important that these resellers have technical experience on-staff, not only on the products they’re selling but how those solutions work together and with existing legacy investments in mind.  They should also be able to demonstrate experience and understanding of key technology imperatives, such as big data, cybersecurity, cloud, IT consolidation, and so on.

8. Do they have engineering and product support smarts? – Having contracts and a robust product portfolio is important, but federal IT investments are rarely plug and play. Likewise, if your agency is to get more from its hurried year-end investments, then you want to make sure user adoption is optimized, for the long-haul. Does your vendor have professional services and engineering staff on-hand to help design, implement and support the technology once it’s procured? Can they ensure the purchase will be implemented on-schedule and according to existing policies? Are those engineers cleared? All important questions to ask.

Caron Beesley Government Writer

Caron Beesley is a technology writer with a specific focus on the government sector.