Some vendors have their own test environments to see if the government request is workable, and others work with universities or federally funded research and development institutions to get the job done.
Once agencies receive the finished proof of concept, they can revise their proposal in order to procure equipment that will work in their existing environment. (Sometimes they don’t, though, but that’s another story.)
Among the issues that the vendor and the agency should watch for is backwards compatibility. In most cases, agencies are as much as three to five version behind the more current product on the market.
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In some cases, it’s best for the vendor to not even suggest the latest technology, which may be too far past the agency’s existing tech capabilities — and which may be the foundation on which future upgrades are built, rather than something that can blend with older models.
Agencies should also ensure that they’ve got the physical infrastructure to support the desired new technology. Those that are renting space in new construction or remodeling an existing workspace must be aware of the potential for design changes that might cut space for large servers, for example, or power and cooling infrastructure that isn’t powerful enough to support the new technology.
Remember to Pre-Plan for New Technologies
In the mercurial environment of government funding, the process of planning for and proving the worth of new technology is important for agencies. Some years the funding doesn’t come; other years there’s a pile of unspent money as Sept. 30 approaches.
Third-party integrators can support agency customers in those circumstances. Some can provide credits or pre-packaged service offerings that enable an agency to have a line item in its budget to show what the project would cost without buying the technology.
The agency can purchase credits rather than products and use them when needed, rather than rushing to purchase equipment that may not be suitable, just because it’s the end of the fiscal year.
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Pre-planning for new technology is also critical to avoid wasteful spending. A few years ago, the Office of Management and Budget began requiring agencies to follow the Technology Business Management model of operations in order to better track cost, quality and spending on IT.
That process is still being fine-tuned, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report, but with $100 billion spent each year on government technology, it’s a step in the right direction.
Agencies that are cautious and realistic about the level of technology they buy can see a huge return; with the assistance of third-party vendors, they can modernize aging equipment with fewer delays, more efficient spending and a better understanding of their new environment.