How to Make Government Biz Less Taxing

Funding for government projects has slowed but that is only a temporary hiccup in a security market with unlimited potential for skilled and savvy integrators. Experts in video surveillance, access control, biometrics and physical barriers lay out the tools for success.

<p>Municipal parking complexes, such as the example above in Miami, Fla., are fertile ground for selling video surveillance systems. The inset shows the parking structure“Even though the government has issued mandates that its facilities must meet this standard, this has been somewhat slow to materialize,” says Ilardi, “but those days are beginning to be behind us. Continued emphasis on compliance by the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Management and Budget has sped up the implementation of HSPD-12 and the systems that support PIV smartcard credentials.” 

The high security and mission-critical nature of many government concerns and installations makes biometrics an attractive step-up in access control tactics. As Scarfo explains, regardless of the technology, the same basic principles apply to optimize the solution.

“Contrary to commercial users who use biometrics because they want to, often government buyers use biometrics because they have to,” he says. “The government buyer may get locked into a technology mandate as can be the case in public safety or regulated applications. Whatever the case, it is always wise for buyers to choose integrators carefully and integrators to choose their biometrics manufacturer on the basis of who can best solve the problem at hand.”

Government security systems and device needs often extend beyond electronic- and IT-based solutions. There is also high demand for true physical security measures such as barricades, bollards, turnstiles, fencing and so on, representing portfolio expansion possibilities for integrators. These are particularly relevant where vehicles are involved.

“When approaching a government prospect for vehicle control and truck
bomb deterrence, determine what are the critical entry/exit points of the facility,” says Greg Hamm, vice president of sales and marketing for Delta Scientific. “Customers need to be aware of two major design criteria, the most important being the certified crash rating of the unit. The second aspect is throughput. In many cases, vehicles must be able to get through quickly, needing up and down cycles of 6 to 8 seconds.”

Challenges Working in This Sector

The fact that compliance is such an important aspect of government business makes it imperative integrators maintain complete and accurate records of everything. After all, no matter how much push there is to simplify or streamline processes, this market will likely always have a certain degree of bureaucracy. This, again, is where partnering with manufacturers can be beneficial.

“If an integrator gets in on one of these projects, they should work very closely with their manufacturer,” Ilardi says. “The manufacturer knows how to market and implement government solutions. They will ensure that the integrator is meeting all compliances, from quoting and bidding with compliant products and making sure the backup paperwork to the bid has the required documentation.”

Just as vital as written details are verbal communications. Government organizations can be complex with multiple points of contact, which makes frequent dialogue that spells out everything essential to ensuring clarity for all parties.

“With design-build bids, the problem is one of communications between the integrator and the customer,” says Randall. “The government assumes everything is covered in the bid but the problem is that word ‘assume.’ For instance, what is a room … the broom closet? Does it need two cameras? The way to rectify any misunderstandings is to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning. When we don’t, it’s not unusual for the government to win the arguments.”

An additional and substantial consideration associated in engaging in government business is contending with extended timelines. Large projects can stretch out for long periods of time. This means an integrator needs to have sufficient cash flow to withstand bidding, design, installation, change orders and final walkthrough before receiving final payment for the contract.

“The biggest challenge most integrators find in dealing with the government is, because many of the projects are larger in scope, they take longer in time,” says Scarfo. “An integrator has to be willing to invest the time and energy to be a trusted advisor and not simply a vendor interested in promoting technology. The ability to listen and influence coupled with extreme patience is a must.”

Wilson offers some additional practical advice to help ease the burden.

“The government moves steadily and slowly. The bidding process can go on for three months or more,” he says. “An integrator can save time by creating a series of templates that can be saved and then cut and pasted into their proposals. Each bidding proposal will create more templates that can then be stored and available for future proposals.”

To sum up, although we hear repeatedly how government budgets are going down, balance that with security threats still being high. Thus, money for security systems is still available and it is being spent. For integrators willing to put in the time and effort, the payback can provide serious revenues.

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