The monies from the $787.2 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money have started to flow, but the IT benefit in sectors such as health care, especially, is years out. Many of the solution providers appearing on the 2009 VAR500 list told CRN that they're approaching stimulus guidance for their end users cautiously: There aren't exactly bags of cash raining from the sky, but end users are both confused and excited -- and looking to VARs to help them separate fact from fiction.
"The stimulus money is going to come out over time to a wide range of agencies and levels of government. It's somewhat fragmented," said Jon Korin, vice president of strategic development at Northrop Grumman (No. 9)."But when you look at the big picture, you ... see the appointments of a new federal CIO and CTO.You see defense priorities and the IT spend there. You see a push for transparency.You see, in the intelligence community, the need to collect and assess mass amounts of disparate data.You see, on the civil side, a big move to areas like health care, energy and the environment. Underlying everything is a critical use of IT to make everything more efficient."
Executive briefings at many of the spring's largest public-sector-focused IT conferences, including FOSE in Washington, D.C., in March, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in Chicago in April, urged solution providers to become stimulus experts to help their customers sort out how they can best deploy ARRA funds.
Perot Systems (No. 51), for example, has in its health-care practice developed consulting services specific to ARRA -- including readiness assessments and executive workshops -- to help clients prepare themselves, said Dr. Harry Greenspun, Perot's chief medical officer.
"There's a mixture of views on stimulus. For some people, it's a gift from heaven, in that they're so cash-strapped as it is, and now you have incentive funds that you can actually put as a real number on a spreadsheet," Greenspun said. "There's still a lot of hesitancy, though. For one, the work isn't done on the [EMR] standards and the regulations and the reporting mechanisms. The certifications aren't final. The destination for everyone is pretty clear, but everyone is starting from a different place on the stimulus. Our job is to figure out what the best pathway is, and what the priorities are."
The consensus advice from VAR500 solution providers is: Don't wait to become that expert although so much remains to be seen.
Rick Marcotte, president and CEO of DLT Solutions (No. 126), has organized DLT's stimulus outreach as a resource center on DLT's Web site that links to established stimulus resources such as the Obama administration's www.recovery.gov and research reports from leading government IT analytics. Marcotte is now working to take DLT's stimulus information gathering on the road to present to vendor partners' public sales teams, and then align with those teams to go after hot contracts.
"The feedback has been stronger than anticipated," Marcotte said. "There are many requests for information and requests from government people, contractors, reporters, vendor partners and a variety of constituents as a result of our search engine optimization efforts."
Above all, VAR500 solution providers noted, don't forget that ARRA is a temporary opportunity -- especially in places like education that because of budget constraints are in huge need of technology refreshes.