What is Exhibit 53?

What is a prime and a sub?Chris WiedemannBy Chris Wiedemann, consultant

As I’ve hopefully conveyed over the course of this “What is…?” series of blog posts, selling to the federal government is a complicated and involved process. It’s been compared to doing business in a different country, and in many ways, that’s an apt comparison. There are enough differences in rules, language and requirements that you can’t just bring commercial sales tactics to bear and expect to be successful.

However, there are some instances where those different rules work in our favor. For example, because the government primarily spends money that is appropriated from taxes, it’s required to show how it’s being used. Which brings us to agency IT Portfolios, formerly (and still informally) known as the Exhibit 53.

The IT Portfolio is a simple document—It shows how the largest government agencies manage their IT budgets. However, if you’ve ever looked at the document itself (which you can access here – just select the first option from the Select Data Source drop-down), you’ll know that it can quickly become dizzying. That’s because agencies are required to submit a wide range of data in their IT Portfolios, from simple three-year spending levels at each line item through to CIO evaluation scores, performance metrics, shared service categories and cloud spend rates.

Fortunately, we can filter out most of the data in the Portfolio and use a handful of vital columns as a prospecting or opportunity identification tool. When I’m using the Portfolio as a research tool, the areas I focus in on are:

  • Agency/Bureau Name, Investment Title: These are the basics – what is the program called, and which agency and bureau manage it
  • Investment Description: This contains a little more detail on what the investment does. While these descriptions are often not very detailed, you can use them to get a ballpark idea of whether the investment is a suitable sales target for you
  • Funding Details: These fields get a little more complicated, but they’re critical. The first thing you’ll notice is that funding is displayed over a three-year period, broken out into Prior Year (PY), Current Year (CY), and Budget Year (BY). In almost all cases, you’re going to focus on Current and Budget Year to identify addressable funding. Next, you’ll notice that in addition to total funding, the Portfolio shows PY, CY and BY levels of O&M (operations and maintenance) and DME (development, modernization and enhancement) funding. You’ll generally want to prioritize investments with higher levels of CY and BY DME funding, especially for new license deals

There are obviously more use cases for the data contained in the IT Portfolio, but the three areas above should be enough to help you find target programs within your territories. Then, once you have a working list of target investments, reach out to immixGroup’s Market Intelligence team for additional analysis and strategic support.

Want to learn more about selling IT to the federal government? Sign up for my one-day class in McLean, Va. on April 19.

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