Government can be a good cloud customer. Just learn the rules.

Posted by Alan Earls on Jan 28, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Government is big business. In the U.S., for example, the federal government represents about 40 percent of total GDP. A lot of that goes to things like Social Security payments, salaries for government employees, fuel, military hardware, etc., but a big part of it is information technology.

In recent years the U.S. government has been spending more than $80 billion a year on new IT projects, above and beyond the billions spent on operations. Therefore, it’s reasonable to suppose that some of that spending is—or should be—directed to cloud. But, what’s involved?

Capitol_BuildingAccording to Information Week Government, federal agencies are embracing the cloud, despite what it calls the “risk averse” nature of the government. In fact, former federal CIO Vivek Kundra established a “Cloud First” policy that mandates that agencies consider cloud options first on new IT projects.

And, it might just be working. For instance, big dog Amazon AWS managed to win a $600 million cloud service contract with the CIA. The Atlantic magazine reports that AWS “will begin servicing all 17 agencies that make up the intelligence community.”

How to win government business

Service providers who want to get in on the action must address a range of issues on the technology side. For instance, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment. It also provides for continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. Individual agencies can have their own requirements too.

Then, of course, there is the whole question of “how” to do business with the federal government. The two big avenues are the General Services Administration, which handles a large portion of procurement activities, and the Small Business Administration, which targets small businesses and manages “set aside” programs that require or at least strongly encourage agencies to reserve more than 20 percent of their spending for small businesses. Fortunately, based on head count, many cloud providers can be classified as small businesses. Additional set aside programs for women, veterans, and minorities can further increase the likelihood of landing business.

And what about paperwork? Well, there can be a lot of it. But, fortunately, most of it is now online registration and certification processes. One place to start is with SAM, the System for Award Management, formerly known as the Central Contractor Registry. One SBA administrator says to think of it as “Facebook” for doing business with the government. In other words, it’s the place where you get listed so that contracting entities can find you. Before you get started, you should make sure to have your Employer Identification Number handy, as well as the appropriate North American Industry Classification Code, Standard Industrial Classification code, and Dun & Bradstreet DUNS number.

You can also go through a similar process with the GSA or shop for opportunities through the Federal Business Opportunities site.

Beyond that, Ray Milano, an SBA official in the Boston office, notes that you still need to use “shoe leather” and reach out to relevant procurement officials. Establishing a positive presence and showing that you can be easy to work with are crucial, he adds.


Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond on Used under CC Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Topics: Growing Your MSP Business, Cloud Trends

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