Every day the team here at SeamlessDocs interacts with employees from all levels of Government across the U.S. — from Public Information Officers down to Town Clerks, we’ve seen it all.
That said, we can’t help but notice an archetype that emerges from the hundreds of employees we speak with everyday — much like the “Champion” that software Business-to-Business organizations talk about, with a few key differences.
Government innovators — “Governators” for short — famously personified by the former Governor of California and new host of The Apprentice, Arnold Schwarzenegger, have a few defining principles. As marketers, we not only look for these attributes in customers, but we relish them. We hone our own skills and deepen our mission with every minute we spend with these captains of government administration.
As stated in a previous post, government can often be big and slow, and its processes are complex and thorough, generally for a reason. Because of that, it is easy for some to fall prey to the doldrums of government work. It is easier to submit to the red tape of long term projects, committee processes, and other well-intentioned speed bumps. But for the select few trailblazers who can rise above, a few key attributes stand out:
In government, procuring software is a lengthy, arduous process that challenges the spirit of many would-be trailblazers — and vendors. For procuring software in business, 90–115 days is the typical benchmark, and longer is considered a slow (and hard-to-justify for a business) sales cycle. This is precisely why many innovative tech companies don’t even TRY to sell to government agencies.
A true Governator — such as our partner Sarah Elkins of Helena, MT — wrote in her anniversary post about SeamlessDocs that it took more than 1 year to convince her staff that it made sense to take their forms online. That’s greater than 3x the typical time it takes a business to decide.
“It was over a year before I convinced our team that this product would improve our relationship with our community and be relatively inexpensive and simple to implement.”
Compare that to the typical early adopting, “champion” buyer in the commercial world and you can understand why most vendors may reconsider Sarah’s place in their “call back” list.
Despite all of that, Sarah stayed the course and helped champion SeamlessDocs internally.
When investigating new tools and platforms, people often talk about securing “quick wins”. No matter the scale of a solution, most buyers are very keen on what kind of “quick wins” they can obtain post-purchase, typically within the 1st quarter. This kind of thinking simply does not occur in government. In government, yearly budgets often bleed into the 2nd or even 3rd year budget, with many costs fixed rather than variable.
For government, for better and worse, the ramifications of updating software — or worse — scrapping it and starting over, is constantly top-of-mind. Because of this, government customers consider multi-year feasibility when procuring solutions regardless of the length of the contract.
Government uses systems for such long periods of time that they are often stuck with having to keep updating these systems despite them outliving their effectiveness. Digital agency 18F founder and President of SeamlessDocs Federal, Dan Tangherlini, was featured recently discussing how billions of dollars of investments in federal IT (75% of total spend) goes to maintaining legacy systems rather than upgrading them.
Admittedly this long-term thinking can be the kiss of death — or the stamp of approval. Once a government determines your organization worthy of working with for the foreseeable future, they can be the most involved and responsive partner you have — while simultaneously being the most demanding and inquisitive. My team has signed multiple municipalities to 5 year deals — a contract length hard-fought in business.
Despite the many flaws of planning so far ahead in an unpredictable world, government innovators have a vision for maintaining excellence in the long term — and have the passion to execute on it.
In government, the “lone wolf” champion simply does not exist. Every government member that has procured solutions from us has mentioned, brought in, or co-purchased with a colleague.
In government, these innovators understand that inter-departmental synergy and seamless workflow is not a nice-to-have but a necessity. Department heads need to know what each other are using, how it’s going, and what the stopgaps are in case anything goes awry. Once more, this can be an ace in the hole or a hole in the boat. On the positive end, if one department is excited about making a change in their processes and a parallel department is keen to do the same, magic can happen.
It’s no surprise that some of our quickest closes to date come from internal introductions, or from neighboring municipalities that want to share wisdom and innovation with others.
In short, while all government innovators are obsessively cognizant of the consequences and benefits of a technology change internally, they are simultaneously emboldened to ensure that the decision they ultimately make has positive reverberations throughout their municipality.
Patience, Long-Term Thinking, and Organizational Awareness are just a few of the distinct attributes that separate these Governators from both typical commercial buyers and their own more passive colleagues within government administration. As we continue to work with these diligent and impressive professionals, we hope you strive to extract some of their strengths and turn them into your own.
This post was originally published on the SeamlessDocs blog