President signs online marketplaces bill—now what?

 By Jeff Ellinpgovernment procurementort, division counsel, and Steve Charles, co-founder

The FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed by President Trump earlier this

month, not only authorizes appropriations for the Department of Defense and military services, but it also includes a provision that will change the way the private sector sells many commercial products to the federal government. It could have a dramatic effect on future supplier go-to-market plans.

As the General Services Administration develops its plan to implement this legislation, the time is now for OEMs to speak up about how they want to see this part of their public sector channel evolve. The next opportunity will be Jan. 9 at GSA’s first public meeting on this issue. But first, a little bit on the impact of this change.

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Are commercial online marketplaces in the government’s future?

By Steve Charles, immixGroup co-founder

Proposed legislation out of the House Armed Services Committee would give the Department of Defense and other federal agencies the ability to buy commercial items (COTS) via online marketplaces without contracting officers having to determine price reasonableness before ordering. To make sure prices paid are competitive at the time, the marketplaces would provide all kinds of data to the government, including posted prices for similar, competitive items on the system at the time of sale. Suppliers would be able to update pricing in real-time.

DOD has long complained about GSA Schedule contracts, as well as GSA’s online marketplace, GSA Advantage, arguing that it’s not a real marketplace.  Product catalogs are not current, pricing is not maintained in real-time and many of the contractors lack strategic relationships with the manufacturers of the products represented.  Agencies put in orders on GSA Advantage, only to learn two weeks later that those ordered items are not actually available. Even people at GSA have told me that it’s much more reliable and cheaper for them to leverage the micro-purchase rules and use commercial shopping sites.

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What You Need to Know About GSA’s New Cyber SINs

Steve Headshot 65 x 85gsasins_091416By Steve Charles, immixGroup Co-founder

If you’re a top-tier cyber-services firm in the federal market, the General Services Administration’s new cyber Special Item Numbers (SIN) within IT Schedule 70 are for you.

Adding cyber-related services to your schedule contract under these new SINs will be different. GSA, with technical people from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will put your company through an oral cyber-scenario evaluation for each SIN:

  • Penetration testing (132-45A)
  • Incident response (132-45B)
  • Cyber hunt (132-45C)
  • Risk and vulnerability assessment (132-45D)

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5 Ways to Lead a Team to Profits

Steve Headshot 65 x 85IES-Sales ImageBy Steve Charles, immixGroup Co-Founder

Ask anyone who’s run a company or a large division about their management style, and you’ll likely walk away with some new strategies for getting people to do what you want them to do.

immixGroup leader Art Richer and I were recently interviewed by Sales Initiative magazine, the largest sales-focused publication in the UK, about our management styles. In a month, we’ll be honored, along with immixGroup co-founder Jeff Copeland, with a lifetime achievement award from the Institute for Excellence in Sales.

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Cyber Info Sharing: The 1st Step Towards Fighting at Machine Speed

3 Areas COTS Vendors Can Help the IRS Improve Their Cyber PostureSteve Headshot 65 x 85by Co-founder, immixGroup

Now that the President has officially signed the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA), how is cyber information sharing between companies in the private sector, and governments in the public sector actually going to happen?

What technologies and skills will be needed to operate within this new paradigm in the coming years? Read more of this post

30-day Cybersecurity Sprint is History – What Now? Part II

Steve Headshot 65 x 85Cybersprintby Steve Charles, Co-founder

Last week I went over FY16 spending priorities tied to the federal government’s renewed focus on cybersecurity. I mentioned while the amount available might be less than the amount in the Obama administration’s initial request, the 2016 budget request for cybersecurity is still a vital document to map fulfillment of those priorities to existing, authorized spending lines. I also want to remind you the month of October is not only the start of the new fiscal year, but is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

In my last post I also showed you OPM’s top 5 cybersecurity priorities. I think you’ll find them closely aligned with the eight priorities the White House spelled out when it launched its 30-day Sprint. Read more of this post

30-day Cybersecurity Sprint is History – What Now? Part I

CybersprintSteve Headshot 65 x 85by Steve Charles, Co-founder

The “30-day sprint” for cybersecurity we saw this summer was a stepping stone towards a renewed focus on cybersecurity as the federal government heads toward the 2016 fiscal year.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration revised its 2016 budget request for cybersecurity. This document is worth studying; it’s a virtual roadmap for spending priorities. Now that Congress has returned after Labor Day, it has less than a month to finish work on a 2016 budget. No one seriously expects this to be done in time to avoid a Continuing Resolution (CR) starting October 1st.

The money available might be less than the amount in the initial request, but the spending request itself details the priorities agencies will pursue regardless. And if you and your government customer can map fulfillment of those priorities to existing, authorized spending lines, then you’ve got a solid sales opportunity.

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Five Tips for a Successful Selling Season

Sales FunnelSteve Headshot 65 x 85 by Steve Charles, Co-founder

Every year around this time I’m approached by technology companies looking for quick tips on how to make their September successful. I start off by saying that in a typical government fiscal year, we see the feds spending about a third of their budgets in the last quarter. However, the steps for completing the acquisition packages began six to nine months ago. 

As we wind down to the last week or two of the year, program managers pick and choose purchase requests like puzzle pieces to get to zero by midnight, September 30.  So, to make sure you’re in the mix at the 11th hour, make sure to ask your government customer one critical question: is the right amount of money in the right account?

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The Time is NOW for Software Publishers to Examine Government License Terms

Steve Headshot 65 x 85by Steve Charles, Co-founder

One of the{139d2873-a0fe-4038-b1d6-98fbd57fb9ba}_GSA main benefits of the GSA Schedule contract is its capability to define line item-specific license and service terms in the contract so they automatically apply at the order stage, with no disconnects or need for negotiation. For years, some software publishers and their government contracting partners have simply linked to the OEM’s commercial license agreements via a URL, hoping those terms would then somehow magically apply to subsequent orders. GSA’s new rule states clearly that such “pointing” is not contractually binding. Further, the burden is on the publisher and the contracting partner to add the terms they care about for each priced item explicitly within the contract.

The new rule also lists 15 terms GSA regularly sees in commercial license agreements that it says violate federal law and cannot be legally enforced. Our summary of these is published in this Washington Business Journal article.  While most manufacturers will learn to manage around these exceptions, many have yet to build a solid, disciplined process to assure that the terms defining each item purchased are expressly stated and contractually binding.  At immixGroup, this has been our standard practice since our founding in 1997, so we’re happy to address any questions or comments as well as provide scalable solutions for manufacturers and their channel partners!

Deal Registration Programs Back on Agenda

Steve Headshot 65 x 85

by Steve Charles, Co-founder and Executive Vice President

OEMs and channel partnersGovernment Channel Leadership Council are constantly asking questions about what passes muster in federal as acceptable practice for rewarding partners who help OEM’s make sales.The issue invariably leads to detailed conversations about what constitutes anything of value to induce a sale under the Anti-Kickback Act, or what constitutes price fixing under the Sherman Anti-trust Act, and finally what constitutes unequal treatment of similarly situated partners under the Robinson-Patman Act.

The good thing for OEMs is that they get to structure their channel programs as they see fit, and increasingly in all sectors, deal registration is the way to reward partners for performing programmatic activities needed by the OEM to address certain market segments. This is especially true at the Enterprise sales level and conversely, is practically irrelevant in the commoditized SMB channel.

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