Bidding any type of government job can be wrought with bureaucratic red tape. You have to know how to work a request for proposal and meet local, state and even national requirements that run the gamut from safety, security and compliance regulations to codes and standards. If you're working for the Department of Homeland Security, you have to know regulations and equipment on the GSA schedule. Depending on the type of system you're installing, knowledge of NIST/FISMA C&A (FIPS) and TWIC as well as countless other compliance and regulatory agency mandates are a huge plus. Some integrators have a designated person to handle the government vertical market, which requires much more hand-holding and follow-up then perhaps other verticals, but the rewards will pay off in the form of repeat business and upgrades, as well as referrals from the tightly held government and municipality community. In other words, if you know your work and how to satisfy these folks, you can become their go-to security reseller.
Within the overall government vertical market there are many different types of customers-local towns, cities and municipalities and other offshoots you may not have considered, including courthouses, city halls, state offices, credit unions, police departments, emergency call centers and others. Integrators are finding success not only with the more visible high-profile federal government entities, but some of these smaller and more local and regional players as well.
Many integrators have piped in that because security is often the last parcel of a project (last in/last out), it can be months, even longer, before the job kicks in. That means you have to have other work on the books to sustain the company over the long haul and keep bidding government jobs on an ongoing basis so the work will establish its own regular schedule from project to project.
Local governments want to be convinced that a solution will work for them and that it will equal cost and manpower savings. For example, video surveillance systems should be up and running in beta formats so potential customers can see what's going on and the integrator is not just talking about what might be. 'Show me' is the way to convince these customers. In addition, as in most vertical markets, the security reseller is now working directly with the IT staff, which is a win-win for all, as these folks know the ins and outs of the networks and existing surveillance and also, what the government may be looking for overall.
Lorie Stephenson, president of Camtek Inc. in Spokane, Wash., has some 17 years in the sales, design, system integration and project supervision of access control, security, fire alarm and video surveillance systems. The company holds numerous electrical, general contractor and low-voltage licenses and has an impressive client list that includes the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife;
Washington State Fish and Wildlife Headquarters; Department of Health and Social Services; and other government clients. Stephenson said that these customers are looking for integrated video and access control systems that interconnect on the network-allowing for efficiencies and cost savings across the board. "Anything that leverages the network is what the government customers are looking for," she said. "We're working directly with the IT departments and often times the customer wants to make sure the equipment will meet their requirements. For example, some may need a system certified to run on the government network for the DOD." Stephenson's team asks the potential customer what their needs are as far as certifications and meeting equipment regulations, and then the company goes about getting these users what they want and generally it's already part of their portfolio.
Drill down for opportunities
John Robinson, president of ATGix in Ridgeland, Miss., said there are always opportunities in the government vertical market, however, he advised integrators to "drill down a little deeper in the area of the government vertical market. By that I mean education, correctional, law enforcement, airports, etc. While the check writing entity might be similar, the applications and needs are very diverse." Robinson said it's been tough as far as funding currently for these various government entities, but he expects new opportunities to emerge in the latter part of this year. Access Technology Group Inc. dba ATGix is a U.S. veteran-owned small business technology systems integrator, and a registered, licensed contractor in the state of Mississippi, licensed by the State Board of Contractors. It holds numerous other credentials that assist in procuring jobs in the government market.
Robinson said his entire team focuses on the government arena and remote video management and access control as a service has become increasingly popular for these customers. As far as regulations, "these vary from state to state and there tend to be more requirements at the federal level," he added.
Like other vertical markets, the government arena may not be as robust as in the past, but in addition to the federal level, there are jobs at local and state municipalities and many other related facilities. These users are looking for integrated solutions and ways to enhance the services they provide. Don't limit yourself to the big jobs only-there's work to be done up and down the channel and additional funding may emerge later this year.
How to market security solutions for municipalities
By Bob Barry
To compete for local government business, security dealers and integrators must first recognize that this niche market requires a consistent, long-term commitment. The buying cycle for local government municipalities is extremely slow and cumbersome, so you should make sure you have a steady flow of day-to-day short-term business to sustain you while waiting for long-cycle jobs to come to fruition. Winning work from local municipalities also demands cost-effective solutions, as this business is based on bids. The rewards for your diligence and patience are a lucrative market and the near certainty that the bill will be paid.
Here are some additional factors that can contribute to a security integrator's success in these markets:
Understand the bidding process. When municipalities seek to award a contract for a new building or structure, they solicit an architectural and engineering (A&E) firm to design the building. After getting the project, the A&E firm creates a specification which typically includes details for the security-related part of the project. By signing up with a service such as Reed Construction Data or McGraw Hill Construction/Dodge Project Marketplace, a security integrator can get word when a project is at the early stages of being awarded to an A&E who will be designing the project specifications.
Use a personal touch. After an A&E firm wins a job, it's a good idea to call them and congratulate them on getting the business (and offer to help if they need any information related to security systems). Keeping in touch with the key players throughout the bidding process can put an integrator in a more favorable position since he has already established a rapport and may get a second look when the bid goes public.
Spread the word. A&E firms bill by the hour, so an effective way to get time with them is to provide lunch. Even before the bidding process begins, you can call up A&E firms to introduce your company and organize "lunch-and-learns." You provide lunch and in return you get an hour of captive audience time to tell them what you bring to the table. When a project comes up, you are already uppermost in their minds.
Make it easy. Look to the manufacturers whose products you sell for the specs you need. Many manufacturers make these available via their Web sites or other resources. There are also services such as ARCAT Inc. that translate product information from various manufacturers into Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) specs, either in a 1995 or a 2004 format. When an engineer needs an access control spec, for example, he can simply download it from these sites.
Don't overlook retrofits. To thrive in the world of retrofits, it is critical that the systems you sell work with open architecture platforms and have written drivers for systems that are common at local, state or even federal facilities. The more platforms and solutions you can manage, the greater the potential for retrofit business.
Get there early. If you have a working relationship with a municipality or an A&E firm, you have a much better chance of finding out when jobs are coming onto the marketplace. Every job you win will help build a basis for future jobs by establishing relationships and creating a reputation for meeting customer needs. Once you get in, word travels fast.
Offer a broad menu of solutions. If you don't have experience providing a wireless solution, for example, find a company that has the expertise to work with you on the job. The wider the variety of solutions you offer, the more lucrative government business will be.
Get help from the supplier. A strong relationship with a supplier/manufacturing company is a great support to help build business with municipalities. A good supplier/manufacturer can help "pull" the business by promoting its solutions and then feeding the opportunities to its best integrators.
Bob Barry is vice president of Integration Sales for RISCO Group USA, with North America offices in Melville, N.Y.
Coming Soon to you - opportunities abound
By Don Erickson
The U.S. federal government is the largest buyer of security equipment in the world. For fiscal year 2011, President Obama has requested $53.7 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a fair amount of that funding will be used to purchase electronic security devices.
The Obama budget proposal details some of the planned spending:
- $4 billion for state and local programs that support first responders
- $734 million for advanced imaging technology screening machines (full-body scanners) at airports
- $89 million for next-generation BioWatch sensors
- $61 million for radiation detection equipment
- $54 million to modernize transportation security vetting and credentialing
And this is just a sampling. Most of the security equipment spending decisions will be made by the department and its agencies, not dictated by the president. As it has for many years now, the government will look to the electronic physical security industry to provide the leading-edge, high quality equipment it needs to secure federal facilities and the nation's critical infrastructure.
At the 2009 Security Industry Association (SIA) Government Summit, several federal officials explained the procurement process for security equipment and noted how it has evolved in recent years. Tom Cellucci, chief commercialization officer for DHS, for example, talked about a new model of commercialization within the department that leads to public-private partnerships. Rather than maximizing production costs and time by setting strict product specifications that often lead to special orders, the new approach involves working with the private sector in a way that encourages businesses to develop products-at their own cost-that meet the government's (more flexible) needs so that the companies can then take advantage of other market opportunities. "Now we're literally developing products in months that took the federal government years," Cellucci said.
Electronic security companies who do business with the federal government would do well to learn more about this new procurement model as they seek contracts. Approaches that were successful just a few years ago might not get the same results today. In the first few years after 9/11, money may have been no object when it came to security matters, but it definitely is an object now, and the government is looking for efficiency as well as effectiveness.
Austin Smith, executive director of the Interagency Security Committee (ISC), meanwhile, discussed changes in the federal government's approach to securing federal facilities. After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, he said, one of the first questions President Clinton and other officials asked was, how are federal buildings protected? Since then, the ISC, which brings together chief security officers and other executives from 42 federal agencies and departments, has been formed and countless security guidelines have been issued. More than a million federal facilities cannot all meet one set of rules, however, and no process is in place to measure the extent to which they are heeding them. As a result, Smith said, "fourteen years later, we still don't know" how each building is protected. The new model, he said, involves "acceptance of risk," with officials at each building reporting on the security measures they have implemented, the outstanding risks that cannot be addressed by the guidelines and the manner in which they are dealing with those risks.
"What good is a security package," Smith asked, "if you don't have to account for the ones you do and don't do?"
For security product manufacturers, integrators and distributors, this means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to federal security. Companies that work with the government to tailor security systems to locations and situations and help them to provide accountability for facility security, such as identifying measures put in place to compensate for unavoidable security discrepancies, will have the most success.
Don Erickson is director of government relations for the Security Industry Association. For more information about SIA's government relations efforts or the June 2010 Government Summit, visit www.siaonline.org/government.
For government sales, say 'FIPS!'
By Jennifer Toscano
Selling to the government? Make sure that the system you propose and provide your customer meets regulations, to save everyone future heartburn.
When it comes to state, county and municipal government sales, there will be state and local codes that apply to all installations, public and private. It won't hurt to ask your non-federal government customers what requirements they must meet; some may want to replicate federal regulations.
Get to know: HSPD-12 and FIPS 201
Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) is fueling smart card use in the government and accelerating adoption by large enterprises. HSPD-12 seeks to establish secure and reliable identification for all federal employees and contractors.
Federal mandates tend to have a cascading effect, so this directive ultimately has significance because state and local governments, as well as first responders, will become major buyers of FIPS 201-compliant smart cards as they follow the federal initiatives. Private contractors must follow and are doing so, including Boeing and others.
To meet the requirements of HSPD-12, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published a standard for secure and reliable forms of identification: Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 201. The FIPS 201 Personal Identity Verification (PIV) card standard requires contact and contactless smart card technologies and biometrics and provides specific standards for the issuance and use of the PIV card.
The key thing to remember is that FIPS 201 sets specific technology standards but does not specify the physical access control system. The card and biometric standards in FIPS 201 deal solely with the technologies used in authenticating individuals at the credentialing offices or visitor centers so credentials produced work on a wide variety of readers. The federal requirements do not, at this time, address the physical access control system.
Here is what you need to do: Verify if the reader technology you are proposing meets the PIV card interoperability standards and that the physical access system you are proposing communicates with that reader. Your manufacturer will help you; they will tell you which readers are FIPS 201 compliant and how to order them.
Where you can get into trouble
A mixed population of old proximity credentials and new PIV II credentials often will be unavoidable during the government's upgrade path to FIPS 201 compliance. No customer is thrilled with having to install two different types of readers. Ask if this is the case. If so, select multi-technology readers which are compatible with both FIPS 201 PIV II credentials and popular proximity and smart card technologies. Reading multiple existing card types and PIV II cards simultaneously is a tremendous benefit to those agencies looking to painlessly transition.
You can't afford to sell security solutions in a legislative vacuum. Being aware of federal standards and regulations that affect government and non-government entities alike will help you gain the trust of your customers and guide them toward solutions that will meet their needs today. It will also keep them in compliance with the latest laws and regulations that affect their industry.
Jennifer Toscano is Portfolio Marketing Manager for Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies.