Do you need an office in Canberra to do business successfully with the Federal Government?
Strictly speaking the answer is no, thanks to the Australia / USA Free Trade Agreement. The FTA prohibits discrimination based on foreign affiliation or ownership, location or size.
Agencies can require that potential suppliers be able to meet specified service standards, such as response times for breakdowns. This turns the focus from the physical location of the suppliers to their ability to meet the specified and often demanding service requirements.
Can you realistically meet agency requirements, many of which will call for delivery in Canberra, from a base elsewhere? In many cases, the answer will be yes. Systems can be administered remotely; contact managed through electronic media, such as email and videoconferencing; help provided online or via telephone. Many agencies are themselves sophisticated users of these approaches and technologies and open to innovative ideas for their use.
The real question then becomes can you manage contact and build mind share with IT decision-makers, who are almost all located in Canberra? Many of the incumbent ICT suppliers with long experience in the market will categorically assert that a permanent office in Canberra is vital to ensure that this is achieved.
But if you can only ever hope to make one or two new sales into the federal market in each year due to the specialised nature of your product or service, having a permanent sales presence in Canberra may be too costly. In this case, you will need to be completely in touch with what is going on, even if you are not permanently there so that you present as if you do have good local knowledge.
At a minimum a program of regular visits to Canberra is a must. Keeping up to date with agency issues and requirements and being able to ‘speak their language’ will also be mandatory. A strategic relationship with a Canberra-based supplier or the appointment of a local agent may also be viable options to consider.