For many suppliers, the best opportunity to gain “mindshare” and influence and agencies requirements is to provide specialist advice in the early stages of the procurement cycle. At this time, agencies are likely to be undertaking market research and open to information and ideas.
However, some agencies are now keeping suppliers at arms' length even during the requirements phase. In some cases, “probity” has been invoked as the reason for refusing contact. More often, agencies are now undertaking their own research and scoping with the assistance of independent advisors, leaving little or no space for supplier initiative.
At its recent supplier briefing, DIMIA didn‟t mince words - “don‟t call us, we‟ll call you” was the message. DIMIA elaborated they were undertaking extensive market research and knew exactly who they wanted to invite in for demonstrations and „proof of concept‟ trials.
So who are these advisors? Variously Gartner, Meta Group (acquired by Gartner on 1 April 2005), IDC, and to a lesser extent Forrester and Ovum, as well as consulting firms ranging from international firms such as Boston Consulting Group through to Tier 2 and 3 local firms such as SMS Consulting and Opticon.
Gartner (including Meta Group) is far and away the most important of these industry information sources, with 21 agencies subscribing to Gartner services in contracts valued at $1.7m in the last 12 months.
In addition, five agencies, including Defence and DIMIA had consulting contracts with Gartner to a total value of $892k. 14 agencies published training or conference contracts valued at $393k with Gartner. As expected, many of the larger agencies with significant ICT requirements are in this list. There are also some surprising inclusions from the very small agencies, such as the National Native Title Tribunal which published a contract with Gartner for $102,000 in January of this year.
Centrelink and DIMIA have subscribed to Ovum in the last 12 months. Ovum also undertook a consultancy with the Australian Communications and Media Authority for “Provision of specialist advice on modern communications and related technologies for ACMA, DCITA and ACCC”.
DCITA and DITR have both purchased IDC reports in the last 12 months whilst Defence took out a subscription with Forrester in September of this year.
Spotting the award of a contract to one of these advisers therefore may be one of the best early signals of intended agency procurement activity!