What is a Smart City?

By Rachel Eckert, SLED consultant

Most of us who have been in and around the state, local and education space (SLED) have seen the term “smart city” more times than we can count. A simple search for “what is a smart city” returns dozens of examples, definitions and solution sheets that explain specific implementations being done under the heading of “smart city.” In a nutshell, a smart city is one that aims to improve the delivery of services to its citizens using technology.

That’s a simple definition and easy enough to understand, but, how does a city become smart? What technologies do they use to be smart? How does a vendor approach a city to make it smarter? And when you add in the typical SLED wrinkle with each city being its own fiefdom, finding a common definition and a strategy to target a smart city is understandably difficult.

Let’s dive into that definition a bit deeper. Cities provide all sorts of services to their citizens including public safety, transportation, health care and more. Each year, cities see their populations grow, thus increasing the number of people to whom they must now provide those public safety, transportation or health care services. The problem is that most cities aren’t seeing the same increase in budgets, leaving them with taxed resources and an ever-growing mission.

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What is NAICS?

Chris WiedemannWhat is a contract vehicle?By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

Over the course of this series, we’ve covered a lot of the ins and outs of government contracting in the IT and COTS space.

Of course, the government buys products and services across the full range of the American economy, in addition to its role in monitoring, reporting on and regulating American industry. That led to the need for a classification system to bucket American companies based on the service or product they provide – the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS).

NAICS codes, as they are known, are six-digit codes that categorize companies and are used by the government in different ways. For example, every solicitation that an agency releases must indicate a primary NAICS that the solicitation pertains to (and, in some cases, additional NAICS codes that might apply).

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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.

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What is FBO?

Chris WiedemannWhat is a prime and a sub?By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

In my last post, I covered solicitations – where the rubber meets the road in federal procurement. As I mentioned, solicitations take different forms and come out in different ways. Most of them come out on specific contract vehicles, and in turn, most of those vehicles have specific bid boards (for example, solicitations on the SEWP GWAC are released to the SEWP website, while GSA Schedule solicitations are released to eBuy).

This has the advantage of limiting the universe of competition, which makes the buying process easier on the government. However, there are occasions when a government buyer wants to open up a solicitation to the entire industry. This is known as an “open market” solicitation – and if the value of the planned acquisition is greater than $25,000, you’ll find it listed on Federal Business Opportunities, better known as FBO.

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What is a solicitation?

Chris WiedemannWhat is a prime and a sub?By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

In our last “What is…?” post, we covered one of the basics of federal contracting: the concept of a prime contractor and subcontractors, or “primes” and “subs.” However, we left a key question unanswered – how does the government actually decide which company to award prime contracts to?

As you might expect, there are a lot of moving parts involved in the awarding of government contracts, whether you’re talking about relatively simple product buys or complex, multi-layered systems development and integration work. No matter the scope, though, the competition process usually begins in one place – the solicitation.

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What is a prime and a sub?

Chris WiedemannWhat is a prime and a sub?By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

So far in our “What is…?” series, we’ve covered some of the basics of selling commercial items to the federal government, and with good reason – at immixGroup, our suppliers and partners are in the commercial business, and we care about the way our customers buy our products.

However, if you dig into the numbers, you’ll see that the bulk of the federal government’s annual IT spending doesn’t go to buying standalone commercial products. Instead, the bulk of IT contracting is done for services – in other words, paying companies to do things like staff federal data centers; provide hosting and infrastructure management; or develop, engineer and manage complex solutions and mission systems.

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What is a set-aside?

By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

Over the last few months, I’ve blogged on the basics of government contracting and selling to government customers – focusing on things like contract vehicles, the Federal Acquisition Regulations, the General Services Administration and federal cybersecurity requirements.

Taken together, those topics describe a basic framework for government procurement and the way industry interacts with it. They also demonstrate that public sector customers (both federal and state/local) behave differently than customers in the commercial space.

However, we haven’t yet addressed one of the most fundamental differences between public and private sector customers: The government, in addition to needing industry to help fulfill its mission, has a broad incentive to encourage economic growth across all sectors of American industry. Often, this growth means prioritizing small businesses over large corporations in contracting – and there are a set of contracting tools, known as set-asides, that enable just that.

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