Prepare now for government business in the new year

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Get a head start on creating new government business in 2018 by planning now for government conversations that need to happen early in the new year.

The year is screaming to an end and most of us are thinking about completing deliverables, rather than planning for 2018. However, for those businesses serious about selling to government, it’s wise to have an engagement plan in place, at least for the first quarter of 2018.

plan for new year

Government engagements fall into one of two camps:

  1. Becoming known so you are in the running to receive offers for planned work. Think of those procurements that are published in forward procurement plans or initiatives called out in strategies.
  2. Influencing government thinking around a future initiative, be it a policy change or funded initiative.

The optimum timings to achieve either of these outcomes vary, as do the government folk you need to engage with. For example, if you are trying to create a new and funded initiative, then the best time to be talking to government is Quarter 4 and Quarter 1 when budgets are reviewed and then set for the next financial year. On the other hand, programs of work requiring considerable funding may require engaging with government a full year in advance.

And this is why it is so important to begin planning your approach to 2018 now. A strong government engagement strategy, and the timing to implement it, must be designed with the outcome in mind. The successful businesses will be those ready to implement their plans from January.

Existing Government opportunities

Existing government opportunities are those that have been planned by agencies for delivery over the next 12 to 24 months, have a budget in mind, and (in the case of those in the next 12 months) have been budgeted for. In other words:

  • The business requirements (i.e. what the agency wants to achieve) has been defined, at least at a high level, and captured in a strategy document or corporate plan.
  • A business case has been completed, costs identified and, hopefully, benefits largely quantified in dollar values.
  • Procurement options have been identified.

A project team will have been established. This may be a newly created team, or a small team within established units; think purchasing teams and larger project teams with a rolling schedule of work under a broader program.

What a business needs to do

  1. Understand the background policy or strategy that has resulted in this procurement.
  2. Identify the high-level business requirements in either a planning document or budget statement.
  3. Match your capabilities to that business requirement. Consciously identify your Unique Business Value.
  4. Find the right person in the government project team to engage with.
  5. Understand the intended procurement method, and if it’s intended to be from an open panel then make sure your business is represented on this arrangement.
  6. Plan your approach – email, meeting and outcomes.

Also look at supplementary activities that place you in the same space as the target government contacts. Hang out where your desired clients hang out.

Armed with this information, you must then start engaging at a minimum of six months out from when the procurement is due. Always take note of the intended procurement release and be aware of Government’s probity requirements that restrict the times you can engage with an agency.

Influencing government direction (Market Led Proposal or an unsolicited proposal)

Government and industry operate within an ecosystem, each occupying a complementary role to enable or deliver services or outcomes to the community. Government is the expert in identifying the needs of the community and the policies and programs required to suit these, while industry or business is expert in the how.

The ‘how’ is what’s important for businesses. If you are a business that sees an opportunity to influence government direction, then you still must do so within the broader strategy or committed direction of government. Remember government’s role and pitch your ideas as how they can better achieve those outcomes.

An example I often use is lobbying to change government policy and funding around intensive care home services, where specialised high-level nursing care is provided for long-term mechanically ventilated patients as a genuine alternative to a long term stay in Intensive Care. While this represents a shift in government policy it still must be considered within government’s broader health and home nursing policies. Businesses will be guaranteed a better result if their approaches to influence government direction are still done within an existing broad policy framework.

What a business needs to do

  1. Understand the framework or portfolio policies.
  2. Clearly articulate the government and/or community need.
  3. Create a high-level business case identifying costs and quantifiable benefits. Show the government’s return on investment and length of time to realise this.
  4. Demonstrate the community/government need to generate a Compelling Reason to Act.
  5. Consciously identify your Unique Business Value.
  6. Find the right person(s) in the right agency to engage with.
  7. If you are discussing a program of works, research available procurement methods and be willing to discuss these. Remember, understanding and working with the process will support you in creating the right and safe path for doing business with government. This will also prepare you if government says “our procurement processes won’t allow us to do this”.
  8. Plan your approach – email, meeting and outcomes.

Also look at supplementary activities that place you in the same space as the target government contacts. Hang out where your desired clients hang out. (Are you seeing a pattern?)

Timing is also key. As mentioned above, if your business is looking to create a new and funded program, then you need to work with government budget cycles. For a lower value initiative, such as up to $100K, then you can engage preferably in Q4 or at the latest Q1 before the next financial year budget is finalised. If you are planning to drive a higher-value program, then you must start engaging a year in advance of budget planning.

Government policy

To be successful you must understand government need, which will be reflected by government initiatives, beginning with election commitment. The sequence is:

Election commitment > Legislation > Policy > Strategy > Program of work > proposed procurement

The nature of your government engagement will determine which of these initiatives you need to be familiar with.

Government publishes a lot of material on its priorities and strategies. To find the information, use departmental websites, websites of central agencies such as DTF and DPC, and if you are in technology look at published whole of government strategies at the Enterprise Solutions website.

Further information sources include the Premier’s website, which describes election commitments and government priorities, and budget papers (www.dtf.vic.gov.au). The Budget Overview and Budget Paper #3 (Service Delivery) describe programs, strategies and priorities in great detail.

Finally, it’s very important to understand that 2018 is an election year in Victoria. Programs that drive election commitments and priorities will be funded – while many other programs will struggle to get funding. Just as industry sends government proposals for work, departments send proposals to Treasury for funding. It’s very likely that the only departmental proposals that get funded in 2018 will be those that directly contribute to immediate government priorities. Businesses must understand how an initiative will support the government to achieve these priorities.

Also see our recent posts:

How to create a Government Engagement Strategy. A well thought out government engagement strategy, updated on an annual basis, is your roadmap to building business with State and Federal Governments.

It’s beginning to look a lot like tender season. Did you know a large number of government tenders are released during November and December? This post includes strategies to survive the tendering silly season.

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