Government partners missed out by staying on show floor

We don’t all deal well with change. Change is certainly coming to the rather dated world of government IT, and it’s been fascinating to watch the government channel react.

Change is overdue around federal IT procurement and service delivery; the government is miles behind the private sector in both areas when it comes to breaking down the proverbial silos. So is its channel, although one vendor made a good point to me: the channel was conditioned to sell the way the government wanted to buy. You adapt to serve your customer.

Well, now the government wants consolidation and shared services, so it’s time for the channel to adapt. I attended the GTEC conference last month in Ottawa, and it was clear some are adapting better than others.

There are two key components to every GTEC. There’s the trade show floor where vendors and partners, as well as some government departments, showcase their offerings and their work. And there’s the keynote addresses and education sessions. I shuffled between both, but a channel veteran made a good point that hadn’t occurred to me: not a lot of partners were attending the education sessions. And that’s a mistake.

The channel community was well-represented on the show floor. But many of the partners spent the show there, pushing their respective hardware and software offerings to the public sector attendees. That’s not without value, but it’s also the old selling model that the government is signaling a move away from.

It has been rare to see partners attending the education sessions. But that’s where they’re far more likely to find their potential customers. The federal IT decision makers are attending panels and break-outs, getting ideas on how to restructure and reform IT within their departments and across government.

Partners would have been wise to be in those sessions hearing and learning what their potential customers are hearing and learning, so they can restructure their businesses and be ready for the coming changes as government IT is transformed. And so they can address the business needs of their customers, not push product.

For VARs, the future of their businesses was in the break-outs, not on the trade show floor. Some partners are skeptical; the government has pledged reform before, always backing away. This time, though, the train is leaving the station. They’d better get onboard.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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