Big sales opportunities in lesser-known agencies: Decoding the Omnibus Bill

By Ryan Nelson, Market Intelligence Manager

The Omnibus Bill 2022 signed by the president about a month ago clocks in at nearly 2800 pages. It’s an annual free-for-all for vendors, with sales teams scouring the pages to compare appropriations to their product and service offerings.

While vendors’ typical targets are big-name agencies, there’s a strong argument to be made to dig a bit deeper below the surface, to the smaller sub-agencies. Big opportunities are often buried in small agency funding, and it’s worth having a closer read of the bill to find out just where those opportunities exist.

After all, you may be unlocking an opportunity that might not be obvious at first read, and therefore may not be as competitive as the larger agency requirements. Put enough of these smaller opportunities together, however, and suddenly you find yourself dealing with enough prospects to keep a team busy for some time.

That said, here are four interesting opportunities you might want to consider as you develop your prospect list from the newly signed budget bill:

1) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Some $38,486,000 is to remain available until expended, for Animal Health Technical Services. Similarly, $4,251,000 is to remain available for information technology infrastructure. That means even agencies that are focused on the health of wildlife, domesticated animals and farmable plants are still a lucrative target for big data, data analytics and network infrastructure components.

2) Farm Service Agency. Necessary expenses for this comparatively low-profile agency actually top $1.1 billion. Information technology represents a significant part of this funding. With programs ranging from aerial photography to financial management information, there are quite a number of opportunities in this agency alone. Most notable is the Modernize and Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems (MIDAS) program. MIDAS is a web-based modernization initiative to simplify, integrate, and automate the delivery of Farm Programs across the United States.

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Seven ways to improve your sales to state CIOs

By Ryan Nelson, Market Intelligence Manager

State and local legislatures are having a good year. Flush with cash from the federal funding, most states enacted budgets with an increase in spending and revenue for FY2022. According to a recent conference of market analysts and government leaders, states project general fund spending of $1.02 trillion, a 9.3% increase compared to 2021. The education outlook is a bit more cautious, showing a trend of delayed spending of federal funding in K-12 districts. Nonetheless, there is a projected additional $3.5 billion in e-rate funds for 2022 and 2023.

During the recent conference, Jim Weaver, Secretary for Information Technology/State CIO for North Carolina was interviewed about how vendors can better position themselves and present information to decision-makers. Here are some of his top tips:

Taking all of this into account, what do vendors planning to sell into the state and local market need to know? The sales approach to state and local decision-makers is different than the federal market, and vendors should be prepared to make adjustments to their approach, to ensure a better chance of success.

1. Understand the state’s strategic plan. Every state has a strategic plan. Before you engage, know how your products and services will help them achieve their particular goals. Do not ask what an agency’s “pain points” are, or “what keeps you up at night?” You’ll find yourself being redirected back to the strategic plan.

2. States are changing the way they consume info. A crisis is an opportunity to influence change, Weaver said, and that has been true with the pandemic. What’s important now are case studies and the applicability of the study to the particular agency being courted. Messaging has to be eye-catching and visionary, but still based on what’s being done at the strategic planning level. Also, Weaver emphasized being engaged in the procurement process; vendors who aren’t already engaged in the process will most likely not get a lot of traction.

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StateRAMP is here to stay. Are you ready?

By Ceren Öney, SLED Market Intelligence Manager

Formal adoption of StateRAMP into IT procurement policies is rapidly increasing. Last year, we encouraged vendors to put StateRAMP on their radar screens. Since then, nearly 200 government members representing 33 states have joined the membership.

For service providers selling into state, local, and education institutions, now is the time to ensure that your cloud security is compliant with StateRAMP requirements.

While StateRAMP itself may still be a few years from being a household word, that doesn’t mean that state and local governments have been sitting idly by. The move toward better monitoring and certification of state, local and education network security has been going on for years, with two states at the forefront.

Arizona and Texas introduce state-specific frameworks

In September 2021, Arizona CIO J.R. Sloan announced the state will “test-drive” StateRAMP over the next year. Sloan, StateRAMP President and founding board member, had previously introduced AZRamp, Arizona’s Risk and Authorization Management Program. Arizona’s move to test StateRAMP doesn’t come as a surprise and further solidifies Sloan’s confidence in the program.

Meanwhile, effective January 1, 2022, Texas mandates state agencies to only enter or renew contracts for cloud offerings compliant with the Texas Department of Information Resources’ (DIR) own security framework, TX-RAMP.

Rising ransomware attacks targeting state and local governments, schools and colleges increased the pressure to strengthen cybersecurity postures and protect against incursions by bad actors. Coupled with the shift to digital services due to COVID-19’s disruptions and federal funding available under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, considerable emphasis is being placed on cyber security now more than ever.

Other states adopt the StateRAMP framework

For most states, like North Carolina and Georgia, creating a state-specific framework is too laborious and inefficient. Adopting the established StateRAMP framework makes the initial risk assessment, continuous monitoring and management more seamless and easier.

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NASCIO Survey shows three transformation areas: Digital services, cyber and people

By Chauncey Kehoe, SLED Contracts Manager

If 2020 was a roller coaster ride for state CIOs, the priority shaping their decisions now is to push forward with digital transformation.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers publishes an annual survey of state CIOs and their perspectives. The 2021 State CIO Survey reveals insights from 49 state CIOs on the “short-term and long-term impact of the pandemic.”

The overwhelming consensus amongst state CIOs is that digital services, cyber security and people are going to continue to be top priority over the next year. This marks a shift from 2020, where, understandably, the emphasis was on initiating remote working and more online services for citizen programs.

I attended this year’s NASCIO conference, and what I heard from state CIOs was consistent with the survey findings. Let’s take a look at their current and planned focus areas.

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Public Sector Basics, Part One: Know your audience

By Jimmy Baker, Public Sector Marketing Strategist

Understanding your government customers and how they gather information about technology solutions is vital for anyone involved in business development, capture efforts, marketing and selling. This blog looks at the differences between audience demographics at the federal, state and local government level, and how to address your marketing message accordingly.

First, however, I’ll let you in on a great resource. Market Connections publishes their Content Marketing Review, which is among the best surveys I’ve seen elaborating on what types of information the public sector needs to make decisions and where they go to get it.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Mari Canizales Coache from Market Connections about the study results and have had some riveting conversations. Here are some insights I’ve gleaned that should help you understand your audiences a little more.

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NASCIO Conference to address SLED technology and spending, and honors immixGroup with Longevity Award

By Chauncey Kehoe, SLED Contracts Manager

Each year, The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) selects a recipient of its five-year Corporate Membership Longevity Award. At this year’s meeting, which will be held in Seattle, Wash. from October 10-13, that award will be proudly accepted by immixGroup, Inc.

The Corporate Membership Longevity Award is a significant accomplishment for companies in the state, local and education (SLED) market, because of NASCIO’s respected standing in the industry.

NASCIO’s mission is to foster government excellence through leadership of quality business practices, information management and technology. Through NASCIO’s members-only community, immixGroup has had the opportunity to participate in discussion forums, collaborate with government and industry leaders and take away lessons learned from NASCIO events.

The most valuable benefit we have gained through our NASCIO membership is the ability to understand SLED technology needs and spending trends through committees and working groups. These groups usually consist of SLED chief information officers and industry leaders. The topics range from IT trends to post pandemic life. As participants, we are able to relay this information back to our suppliers and resellers to better prepare them for selling into the SLED space.

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The importance of data monitoring and Zero Trust in battling ransomware

By Derek Giarratana, supplier manager

Ransomware is real and security threats continue to evolve, with new ones emerging daily. At times, organizations can feel that they won’t fall victim to ransomware, but now is not the time to ignore the facts. In 2019, it was reported that ransomware attacks were up by 41 percent, and in 2020 with the pandemic at the forefront, it was predicted that an attack occurred every 11 seconds.

In addition to the sheer volume of attacks, today’s ransomware and malware are also gaining in sophistication. Using random extensions and file names, the latest threats are making detection using blocked list solutions difficult and, in many cases, completely ineffective.

Every time an attack occurs, it takes significant time and money to remediate. Recovery time takes, on average, at least 16 days, and 67% of organizations that have been hit by an attack have lost all or part of their data. This is particularly problematic for public sector organizations that are faced with strict compliance requirements such as HIPPA, GDPR, CIPA, and CJIS.

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SLED 101 Series – Understanding the IT Budget

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Market Intelligence Manager

In our last installment we walked through the budget process to help you target your customers at the right time. In this, our third installment of our SLED 101 series, we focus on IT budget distribution, state-by-state spending and the importance of engaging with the right stakeholders. This information can help you focus your sales efforts more strategically and develop more targeted account lists.

Let’s start by looking at the pie chart below with a breakdown of IT spending by jurisdiction type or level of SLED government.

IT budget distribution

For 2021, IT spending in SLED will be just north of $100B. Spending proportions and ranges will vary for each state and or local government, however, almost 40% of that spending will be done by state governments. Higher Ed, Special Districts, K-12 School Districts and Cities all sit around, 12–15% each.

To give a bit more context to the SLED spending estimate, let’s look at a heatmap of estimated IT spending by state. You can use this heatmap in conjunction with the pie chart to segment your territory even further.

State-by-state spending

States like California, Texas, Florida and New York all have large IT budgets, making them prime targets for opportunity development. That doesn’t mean that states like Montana or North Dakota with smaller IT budgets do not have any IT opportunities, but that those IT opportunities will likely be smaller in scope.

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StateRAMP: An Outgrowth of FedRAMP for SLED

By Troy Fortune, VP & General Manager

Is StateRAMP on your radar screen? If you are a cloud software vendor and trying to sell into the state, local and education market, I encourage you to pay attention.

Modeled after FedRAMP, StateRAMP is gaining traction among many state CIOs. For the last seven years cybersecurity has topped the priority lists for CIOs at the state, local and education (SLED) levels, yet there are no established security standards they have all agreed to.

StateRAMP plans to leverage the existing FedRAMP assessment and approvals processes to help simplify the implementation for government and industry. Logistics for FedRAMP to StateRAMP transitions are still being finalized but vendors should look for the marketplace to launch in Q2 of 2021.

Cyberattacks on the Rise

Cyberattacks in SLED have amped up in recent years and become increasingly sophisticated, targeting sensitive citizen PII data. Many organizations have begun taking steps to protect their databases and systems, but those measures vary widely from state to state and even department to department. The expanded use of cloud-based systems to house and manage critical services like Medicaid and unemployment insurance only increases the risk. Unfortunately, few standards exist for cybersecurity or cloud security, which makes the protection of their sensitive data even more challenging.

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SLED 101 Series – Follow the Funding

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Market Intelligence Manager

This second installment of our SLED 101 series focuses on funding and budget cycles.

Not all money is created equal when it comes to state, local and education (SLED) funding. Understanding where money comes from and how budgets are built will help you better time and align your sales efforts to when your customers will be most receptive to new IT project ideas.

Funding sources dictate spending flexibility.

Let’s start by understanding the different sources of spending. The largest chunk of spending in most states comes out of what is typically referred to as the General funds budget. This budget represents the largest share of revenue collected by states and significantly impacts a state’s overall ability to spend. General funds have the most flexibility and are recurring funds received yearly. They can be used for a variety of products and services, including include IT. Most of your sales will come from this budget.

The other pieces of the pie, like Federal or Other state fees, have stipulations and limitations on their use, making them a bit more challenging to leverage. This isn’t to say that there aren’t IT opportunities related to Federal funds or Other state fees, just that those funds are less flexible in their use and allocation.

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