Have security clearance requirements been changing as threat levels increase, and how do they impact AV integrators?
Fechner: AV integrators with cleared personnel and facilities are always in high demand.
With that said, just because one has a security clearance does not mean they can work a project without oversight. Often times when work is performed in or around a secure facility, government escorts are assigned for security purposes.
Catch 22: How can AV integrators that want to move into the government sector acquire the necessary experience with those types of clients?
Fechner: My first recommendation would be for the integrator to ensure that their company is registered in the System for Award Management (SAM) data system (learn more at sam.gov). This is required for any company or organization to do business with the federal government.
The second step would be to reach out to the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) for the agency they want to do business with and request a meeting with one of their representatives to discuss their company’s capabilities. Normally the folks in these offices are very helpful and eager to assist small businesses.
Finally, it is very important when attempting to sell to the government that the company hire a seasoned sales or business development professional that has an extensive background in selling to the government. Selling to the government is unique and poses many challenges. Having the right person with years of experience that can speak the same language and understand the processes in this environment is invaluable.
What are the biggest mistakes that AV integrators make when it comes to writing and preparing proposals?
Fechner: One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen in proposals to the government is a vague, very broad scope of work. When awarded, these proposals often lead to confusion between the government customer and the installers, longer installation times and inevitably scope creep.
It is always important to match a well-written, detailed proposal with the government issued request for proposal (RFP) or statement of work (SOW).
Is there any correlation between work done for municipal, county or state governments and the federal government? What are the key similarities and differences?
Fechner: There is typically no direct correlation in regards to projects. However, there are agencies like the National Guard where projects can receive funding from both federal and state government. The contracting process between them is similar but each has their own set of regulations and guidelines that must be met.
Crestron has touchpanels in the Pentagon but also on aircraft carriers. Are there particular government agencies or departments that are better candidates for AV contracts?
Fechner: With the emergence of Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) in the government, the opportunity to sell AV is everywhere. We are seeing it in the expected areas such as classrooms, conference rooms and command and control centers. But UC&C introduces new areas to address such as mobile devices with content sharing, BYOD, smart buildings and enterprise-wide resource management.
Crestron is at the center of the UC&C initiative with our DigitalMedia, control and Crestron Fusion software, so it makes the AV industry a very exciting industry to be a part of today.
Are congressional gridlock and legislative budget battles affecting the government work landscape at all?
Fechner: No. There was a bit of a pause during the budget sequestration and government shutdown of 2013 but that was a unique case.
How do you think the government contract category will change over the next five years?
Fechner: I foresee the increased use of GWACs for IT/AV procurements. Pre-competed contract vehicles such as GWACs streamline the acquisition process, which leads to the government saving time and money over conventional open market procurements.