Homeland-Security Opportunities Fading, Survey Says

Homeland-security opportunities may be short-lived, with many agencies already finished with homeland security IT initiatives or in the last leg, according to a survey by Market Connections.

Market Connections, a Fairfax, Va.-based federal market research firm, surveyed more than 600 federal IT purchasers within the Department of Defense and civilian agencies to find out what influences and affects their buying decisions. The report, released today, revealed that only 32 percent of agencies still have technology initiatives related to homeland security in the pipeline; of those agencies, nearly half responded that the initiatives are 75 percent or more complete.

"[Homeland security] is not a key driver of IT spending," says Lisa Dezzutti, president and founder of Market Connections. "You're going to see this trend level off over the next couple of years."

Given that, VARs are advised to approach the homeland-security market with targeted solutions, focusing perhaps on the three areas that agencies rated as most important: IT security, physical security and disaster recovery.

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"No one company [providing homeland-security solutions] is making the honor role," Dezzutti says, with agencies giving an average satisfaction rating of C+. "This is not the time to go out with a broad brush as the homeland-security [provider] for all."

Also noted in the survey was the market perception of manufacturers, VARs and integrators that sell to the federal government. In each category, respectively, Dell, CDW Government and IBM Global Services came out on top in terms of recognition.

"[Dell] is the brand on steroids," with 80 percent of those surveyed naming it the "top-of-mind" manufacturer, Dezzutti says. "They're moving up the food chain," partly due to the amount the company invests in the market; the same goes for top-ranked HP and IBM, she says.

GTSI slipped somewhat as far as awareness in the federal market is concerned -- perhaps as a result of CDW-G's successful drive forward during the past couple of years, or because of a newfound emphasis on integration and services rather than strictly commodity products, Dezzutti says.

Across the board, customer service rated the top factor in choosing suppliers, according to those surveyed; that's something most VARs know, but few provide, Dezzutti says.

"Federal agencies expect partners to step up, acknowledge there's an issue and get it resolved quickly," she says. "Everyone says this is what they do, but few deliver. Customer service can be a great differentiator, but you need to demonstrate to the customer how."