Collaboration Key To the Grant Process

Grants can be an important source of funding for many public-sector technology projects, but understanding the grant process is not always an easy task. In a session at this year's Government XChange event in Washington, D.C., Don Dickson, president of Market Access International, advised attendees on how to understand the grant landscape and leverage grants in their public-sector business.

While business won't magically double thanks to grant-writing efforts, Dickson said that helping agencies with their grants is a great way to get a foot in the door and build a better relationship.

"Focusing on grants is obviously not going to solve next quarter's business goals, but strategically it can be important," Dickson said. "In addition, grant programs can help companies understand where priorities are with local agencies and what their technology priorities are as well."

He shared practical advice on where grant money will be flowing in the coming years. He cited document control, storage and retrieval strategies at the state and local level following Hurricane Katrina's effect on New Orleans and the loss of records there. In addition, he pointed to increased funding for "dual-use technologies" that can be applied to multiple agencies, such as an application the Department of Defense can use that can also be utilized at a local level.

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With 15 different grant programs in place and billions of dollars in the grant pipeline, Dickson said that it's important that grants focus on collaboration--between agencies or between regions. Successful grants also should focus on measurements and how the investment will be measured once the grant money has been put to use.

The theme of collaboration as key to a successful grant proposal was echoed by attendee James Solomon, president of Burr Ridge, Ill.-based inVision Networks.

"There are DHS grants, Department of Education grants, Department of Agriculture grants, but one by one it might not be enough funds to accomplish what an agency wants to do," he said. "But if you pool the funds in some instances you get enough money, where as if you only go after DHS, you won't get what you need."

Solomon likens the grant process to "constantly building wagon wheels," and these wagon wheels need a lot of spokes to be strong. While you only need three spokes to technically make a wheel, you need more to make it strong.

"VARs and integrators have the ability to apply life experiences and business know-how to the process," Solomon said. "Most government folks don't think of it from the business perspective."