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Startup Tech CEO: How can you learn government mission needs?

This is the next in our series of special reports for OODA members focused on federal business strategies for the Startup CEO (find them all here).

If you are a tech CEO building an awesome new capability that improves the ability of organizations, there is a very high likelihood that government agencies will have an interest. The government organizations that will have the most interest are those that will see your technology as critical to mission accomplishment. This makes learning government mission needs extremely important.

Here are our top tips on identifying the government mission needs most relevant to your capabilities:

Start With A Fast Foundation

The federal government is huge. Think of it as the largest customer in the world, because that is exactly what it is. It is so large no one human can understand it all. As an aid to focusing on what is important, we recommend talking to experienced professionals who know the federal government. As a member of the OODA Network we would welcome a conversation with you on this. If you give us a brief understanding of your core capabilities we can more than likely help narrow down the key sectors of the federal government that will have most interest in your capabilities and give a very high level overview of the mission needs of those organizations.

Build More Detailed Insights

After determining which organizations you will want to focus on you can build more detailed insights. A first step we always recommend is reviewing Congressional Testimony of the leaders of the agency or organization. Congressional testimony contains key executive branch priorities and most always also includes gaps that leaders want the public to know about. If your capability fills these high priority gaps it can help shape your strategic approach to the agency.

At some point you will want to consider standing up a federal advisory board made up of seniors who have had experience in government agencies of interest to you. The right professionals can accelerate your understanding of mission needs and help you and your team grow in service to these key missions.

You will also need insights into the compliance drivers that flow from both the White House and Congress. Since this is where both guidance and money flows from, this is also critically important. You can learn these compliance drivers yourself by study of the CIO.gov website and OMB websites. But the most efficient way to do this is to have experienced former federal executives help you and your team out. So helping you understand these drivers may be another task for your federal advisory board.

Most every agency will also publish key requirements on their website, and many will also provide instructions for technology vendors who seek to provide demos of capability. If you are going to provide a demo to an agency, it is absolutely critical that you have studied up on their gaps and missions so you can put your demo in their context. We recommend having experts review your demo before giving it to the government. Otherwise you might follow their procedures, set up a demo, and have it fall flat. But, if you provide a demo in the context of agency needs you will almost certainly get feedback from government leaders on what they are really looking for. This is the best way to get deep insight into agency mission needs- directly from government leaders.

Your understanding of mission needs may now be good enough to inform your strategic approach to market. More detailed work will be required to really operationalize pursuit of federal business.

Integrate Mission Needs Into Daily Operations

When you are ready to aggressively pursue government business you will need to equip your team with more operational insights.  Some tips:

  1. Ensure the right people on your team are tracking government opportunities. A first step here is using the government website called FedBizOpps. The vast majority of the addressable market you will have access to will buy through this site. You will eventually want to consider paid databased that provide insights into government procurements.
  2. Understand and track the issues and risks on the mind of government decision-makers. Below we list several special reports below that can help you and your team stay up to date on topics of high interest to the government.
  3. Consider the right professional organizations to join to help learn government mission needs. The specific groups you engage with will depend on what your capability is and what part of the government you are seeking to serve. But examples include AFCEA, INSA, and the Cloud Security Alliance.

Please Contact Us Here or reply to any of our emails with your feedback.

Other OODA Member Resources To Track Government Mission Needs

Some other resources that can help your team understand the mission needs of government agencies include:

We also strongly recommend you and your entire team sign up for distribution of the OODA Daily Pulse for updates on issues of high interest to the entire federal technology ecosystem.

The next post in this series will dive deeper into working with federal systems integrators.

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of OODA LLC, the technology research and advisory firm with a focus on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity which publishes OODALoop.com. Bob is the co-host of the popular podcast The OODAcast. Bob has been an advisor to dozens of successful high tech startups and has conducted enterprise cybersecurity assessments for businesses in multiple sectors of the economy. He was a career Naval Intelligence Officer and is the former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Find Bob on Defcon.Social