Striving for visibility
Though the CIO-CS contract is loaded with attractive features for potential users, it took some time for it to find its way. Initially, agency buyers who were accustomed to the product focus of the contract’s predecessor, ECS III, struggled to understand CIO-CS. Even today, it doesn’t have the visibility of many major IT contracts.
“From a customer point of view, we’d like to see more of them embrace this contract,” says a CDW·G CIO-CS program manager, “and we would like be an advocate for NITAAC to help the CIO-CS contract be more visible to our mutual customers.”
NITAAC, which runs the contract, has instituted a slew of informational and outreach programs to market CIO-CS. NITAAC says it attends more than 100 conferences, event and trade shows around the country every year. NITAAC representatives frequently meet with more than 200 agencies in order to improve knowledge of CIO-CS.
Along those lines, NITAAC recently launched a new content strategy to provide industry with “useful and engaging” content on how to buy digital services. That strategy covers a range of topics, according to Bridget Gauer, director NITAAC, such as blockchain, IT modernization and agile procurement. NITAAC has also increased its social media outreach efforts, focusing on efforts to help people understand fair opportunity and how that streamlines acquisitions when using GWACs such as CIO-CS.
NITAAC recently released a free app for Apple iOS and Android devices called NITAAC GO. It provides updates on NITAAC activities and contract news. The app also lets users request contract training or assistance on acquisitions.
Sales of cloud services, a focus of CIO-CS, have lagged those of other CIO-CS products. NITAAC responded by developing a guide for people to order cloud services off the contract. The guide focuses on best practices and provides blogs and white papers on general cloud topics. More directly, NITAAC offers complimentary training at NIH headquarters or at customer sites to educate potential customers about NITAAC and the value of CIO-CS and its companion SP3 contracts.
Gauer says NITAAC ensures that training is conducted by actual contracting officers. Doing so keeps the focus on agencies’ users of the contracts – instead of a simple sales pitch.
NITAAC also has a business development team that’s solely focused on educating potential CIO-CS users on the contact.
“They have a really good team that the government customer can reach out to and which we as a contract holder can also put customers in touch with, so they can have a government-to-government conversation about the contract and its benefits,” a CDW·G CIO-CS program manager says.
Ground zero for information on NITAAC and CIO-CS in particular is the agency’s website at https://nitaac.nih.gov/services/cio-cs.