Pitching to an agency? Study its enterprise architecture

Vendors can use an agency's enterprise architecture as a guide to selling their products by showing how the products and services fit into an agency's mission, according to James Kane, president and chief executive of market research firm Federal Sources Inc.

Kane gave the advice during FSI's 18th annual Federal Outlook Conference Thursday in McLean, Va.

The White House's Office of Management and Budget requires that agencies complete an enterprise architecture, which maps their business processes and mission goals back to their physical and network infrastructures.

By using the architecture as a guide, a company can identify how its offerings can fit not only one office's needs, but also those needs across an entire agency, Kane said.

Total government IT spending grows from $49.8 billion in fiscal 2002 to $58.1 billion in 2003, according to Federal Sources. In the fiscal 2004 budget, it jumps to $59.3 billion.

Dan Chenok, OMB branch chief of information policy and technology, reinforced the idea of using enterprise architectures to guide purchasing decisions. He said agencies should look at their architectures for products that are used agencywide but purchased at the office level. An agency should aggregate those purchases for more bargaining leverage, he said.

Chenok also said agencies are increasingly submitting business cases with their requests for new project funding. While only 14 business cases were included in fiscal 2003 budget requests, more than 100 were included in those requests for fiscal 2004.

OMB uses a scoring system with these cases to evaluate what return on investment a proposed project may have. It determines if the project directly supports an agency's mission. Those without a strong business case will not get funded, Chenok said.

Government vendors and contractors can use the scoring to qualify sales leads, Kane said. In fact, he advised against selling to a program manager who is unaware of how his project fits into an agency's overall enterprise architecture. Such work ultimately may not get funded, he said.

"If I were to try to sell you a car, one of the first things I would ask is if you have the money to buy that car, if you are qualified," Kane said.

Kane said OMB's confidence in business cases is fueled by the internal studies it has done that show how projects without strong business cases more frequently go over budget.

"We think there are some real, fundamental changes in the market that deserve a fresh assessment from senior management," Kane said. As a result, companies' sales teams "need to be able to talk about enterprise architectures and use business cases as qualifiers."

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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