Do you have a commercial tech strategy?

If you don't, you're putting your business at risk. The use of commercial technology in the government is growing, and many companies are adapting their strategies to take advantage of a trend that is here to stay.

A lot of trends are driving the federal market and I reviewed several of these during my Top 100 webinar this week.

The obvious ones are the budget, lowest price contracting, and the increasing adoption of technologies such as mobile and cloud.

There is a related trend that should be obvious to everyone, but really wasn’t to me until I started putting my presentation together. I kept coming back to this idea of how commercial technologies have become central to much of the movement within the government market.

Mobile and cloud are commercially-driven technologies, particularly mobile, but the importance of commercial technology also is driving business strategies of some of the largest government contractors, and it’s helped lead a comeback of a business segment that, a few years ago, had become marginalized as a leading force in the market.

It also is influencing what government customers want to buy.

So, here are some examples of how the use of commercial technology is having an impact on the market. There is a lot of overlap among these. No single item stands completely alone.

Centers of Excellence

Over the last two years, I’ve been invited to more openings, tours and ribbon cuttings than I can count. I’ve attended a few, but not as many as I probably should. I thought of these as mostly marketing ploys, but I’ve come to see them as something more.

Marketing is important, yes, but these centers also are about real work, and are tools for government contractors to show off how commercial technologies can help agencies. The centers are also a way for contractors to deepen their partnerships with commercial technology firms.

Research and Development

Tight budgets have gutted the spending on R&D, and now it seems that a lot of companies aren’t doing development work from scratch, but are taking commercial technologies and figuring out how those technologies can be adapted to government problems.

I think the R&D work and the centers of excellence phenomenon are in lock step with each other.

The relationship between government contractors and the commercial technology companies also comes into play here because the contractors want the inside track on the R&D work that the commercial companies are doing. This allows them to influence the development work, and even participate in some instances.

The return of the VARs

Value-added resellers have never gone away, but they definitely had become marginalized as just product sellers and order takers.

But what I’ve seen in the last year or so is how many of them have reclaimed their seat at the table by forging closer ties with the commercial technology companies, and building technology practices around those technologies.

This is helping them support their customers in a more valuable way, and the VARS have become an important revenue stream for commercial companies for whom the government market isn’t a priority, or is too difficult to master on their own.

Customer demand

Frankly, for a lot of the work that the government does, there is no need for a government-only solution. The budget crunch has helped to squelch much of the “government’s unique” thinking when it comes to buying technology.

The drive for cloud computing and “everything as a service” also couldn’t happen without wide spread adoption of commercial technologies.

The attraction of smartphones and tablets, and their power as tools for real work, is another reason why commercial technology is so critical in today’s government market.

Not just a fad

This growing connection between the commercial world and the government world is here to stay. We won’t see a return to government only. Of course, there will also be exemptions, but those will be extremely rare.

I’m sure a lot of what I’ve written here will seem obvious to many of you. You are probably thinking, "Nick, this has been happening for years." But it seems to have reached a critical mass in the last year or two. If your business model and your go-to market strategies don’t have commercial technologies and relationships with commercial companies at their core, you risk putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage.

Over the coming months, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at some of these areas. First up will be the R&D priorities of the big commercial technology firms, and the evolution of the VAR.

We’ll see where to go from there, so please let me know where you think our attention should go.