Tag Archives: networking

Networked Customer Experience (CX) Is Converging Public And Private Sectors

Image: “WSP


The government’s mobilization in the recent weeks to design a network of citizen-focused programs has been profound to watch—and in many ways represents the future of experience. 

At the end of the day, a networked customer experience is not just the result of a technical solution; rather, it’s a deeper philosophical shift in a move from top-down transactional experiences to more integrated, co-equal relationships between government and citizens.


“In a matter of weeks, and in some cases days or hours, many businesses have pivoted because of the pandemic to meet the needs of their customers and offer a completely different customer experience (CX). Similarly, hospitals and medical practices have started to pivot their business model to focus on telemedicine, and many small businesses that were never in the delivery space have shifted quickly so they can continue to bring goods and services to customers—and remain profitable during a challenging time.

But the private sector is not the only space innovating and taking a customer-centered approach to the public health crisis. Government agencies have also had to shift in significant ways to operate in this unique environment and interact with citizens differently. Here are just a few examples of what federal organizations have done in a very short period of time to continue meeting their mission to serve citizens:

  • On April 15, the IRS launched the Get My Payment web tool so the millions of Americans who will receive stimulus checks can track the status of their payment. Shortly after deploying this tool the IRS began monitoring usage trends and customer feedback to drive the creation of coronavirus stimulus-specific FAQ content and iterative agile application improvements. The IRS has been, and will continue, deploying updates several times each week since launch.
  • In order to stay accountable to the public and report on the nearly $3 trillion stimulus funds, the Treasury Department is updating the Data Act systems to update its tools to account for increased submission requirements by agencies spending CARES Act money. The department is making that information available to the public on USAspending.gov and the Data Lab in new visualizations and data downloads.
  • In order to re-open recreation areas safely and in accordance with safe distancing guidelines, federal land management agencies are using Recreation.gov as one of their tools to provide advanced reservations, manage visitation volume, distribute information, and offer online payment solutions to visitors.
  • And the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Services pivoted up to 20 percent of its talent pool, at times, to fast-paced response efforts—including the development of authentication technology for the Paycheck Protection Program run out of the Small Business Administration and which is keeping so many businesses afloat.

Moving Toward Networked Customer Experiences

In both the private and public sectors, customers are expecting interactions that are seamless, with access to a collection of features simultaneously. We refer to this as a “networked” experience model, where customers create value with multiple providers, and the experience depends on the value those providers deliver collectively. There are still experience challenges that are unique to government given its organizational and mission complexity.

There will be a time soon when those responsible for delivering federal services like social security, veterans’ benefits, and medical programs will be able to rethink the entire customer interaction. At the end of the day, a networked customer experience is not just the result of a technical solution; rather, it’s a deeper philosophical shift in a move from top-down transactional experiences to more integrated, co-equal relationships between government and citizens.

It’s clear that a networked services model has in many ways operationalized during this public health crisis, in which customer experience has taken on heightened significance. Federal organizations can’t afford major missteps, and agency leaders should take advantage of support resources for help navigating this complex new normal. Over the past few years several organizations and programs have been established, including the United States Digital ServiceOPM LabsGSA’s 18F and their IT Modernization Center of Excellence for Customer Experience, to help agencies evolve with a rapidly changing experience landscape. Lighthouse agencies (such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and Lead Agency Partners (such as the Department of Veterans Affairs) for customer experience have had fully operational CX practices in place since before the crisis, and their models can serve as a blueprint for others along their experience journeys.”


Tips For 2020 To Survive And Thrive In Government Contracting



Have an internal venue for sharing intelligence and having it analyzed by stakeholders in BD, capture, sales, marketing, and finance.

Have that analysis shared with the executive team as you proceed to ensure course corrections are made in a timely manner.


“I will ignore the elephant in the room and not discuss the ever-present beginning of fiscal year continuing resolution.

As I re-read John Keegan’s Intelligence in War, I keep thinking about what kinds of intelligence companies need to survive, then thrive, in GovCon.

Let’s start with the basics: Contract intelligence

As we all know, SAM, FPDS, FBO and more will merged into one system under GSA. I don’t hold out any great hope for ease-of-use in the near term, but I hope I am wrong. When and if it comes together, it should be a great platform.

In the meantime, you need to have current, actionable information. I use Bloomberg Government and I am quite pleased with it, especially as they add features based on customer input. GovWin, FedMine and others are also available. If you use Deltek’s software, GovWin dovetails nicely.

But you need the contract data to map out where you are going.

I also have a number of news feeds from GovCon trade media, blogs and podcasts that I monitor.

Live networking

Live networking events such as the Washington Technology Power Breakfasts are an excellent place to find people interested in the same issues that you are. Associations such as AFCEA, ACT/IAC and PSC are equally important as you get into your 2020 and beyond market planning. The exposure you can receive by actively participating in events and associations is essential for your company’s growth.

I discussed live networking in a recent Washington Technology article. The same criteria I used for picking events and networking venues applies to the associations that you might want to belong to. The pedigree of the organization, a.k.a. its background, the networking opportunities, and the education offered by the association are the key factors when making your choice.

While I only listed three associations above there are a variety of very specialized groups throughout the GovCon ecosystem. Some of these focus on specific agencies, such as the NASA Contractors Group which meets in Greenbelt, Maryland, or a CEO group I will not name that focuses on doing business at Fort Meade. There are others, such as the Government Blockchain Association, that focus on specific technologies. Finding these groups is not always easy but it can be critical to your survival and growth.

Account/agency-based marketing

This is another key factor. When you have a beachhead in a particular agency, you need to think about how to grow your presence in that agency. It is easier to expand inside an agency where you are known rather than to go after new business in another agency.

You can leverage your contract tracking service to see what other contractual activity is occurring in your client agency and see where you might fit. You may also look at your existing contractual vehicle to see if there is other work that can be appended to your current contract.

LinkedIn can also play a significant role in expanding your beachhead at an existing client. All federal agencies and most major operating divisions are listed as companies on LinkedIn and you can search the employees for key contracts. Connecting with key personnel and leveraging LinkedIn as a content delivery venue is a must.

Leveraging an experienced outside POV

One other factor is to consider bringing in a consultant with deep market knowledge to help you review your go to market plan before you start implementing. Host a brainstorm session with your leadership team and invite this expert to review your plans beforehand, then come in and give various “what if” scenarios.

Over the years I have participated in a number of these as the outside expert on marketing issues which overlap with sales, business development, and capture issues. Often I have identified gaps in leveraging associations, social media and traditional media, and events that have helped companies establish deeper connections with current agencies or to go after new business.

Sometimes those inside the company are too close to the issue to see some of these gaps.

I started this article by referencing John Keegan’s intelligence in war. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War also references leveraging intelligence to gain a significant advantage.

Gather intelligence

So my final tip on things to consider when you are proceeding in the year 2020 and beyond planning is to gather intelligence from multiple sources that is useful and that will be used by your executive team and frontline managers as you proceed. “


Best of fortunes in 2020 and beyond.”

About the Author

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

Picking The Right Government Contracting Event

Image: “Bus.com


There is a need to occasionally review what you attend and why, then decide to continue or perhaps vacate.

Events are part of the lifeblood of our industry, but they can also be a huge time-suck with minimal return. They can help you meet the right people and sometimes help you advance your career.


“Events- conferences, briefings, networking, these and more are a big part of the lifeblood of the government contracting ecosystem. If you monitor www.GovEvents.com, you will see all types of events and the frequency with which they occur in our market. For years a common refrain is that you can spend your business day, every day, out of the office at some kind of meeting, briefing or conference.

You will have different event needs as your career progresses. You may be looking for a new position; you may have a new position and you need to gain new contacts you didn’t need before; you may have a new, more visible position at your current company and you need to network at a little higher level. You get the idea.

At some point you have to ask yourself about the value of spending time in particular venues- what is the return on your investment of time and money, the hassle of travel and parking, versus the benefits you derive from attending? Is it a “comfort food” event, like Cheers!, where everyone knows your name, but the returns have diminished? Last year I jettisoned a monthly comfort food event because there was no longer a return on my investment. Too bad because it was in Central Maryland, 10 minutes from where I live.

What are your criteria for finding the right venues for you as a professional and for you as a company employee or executive?

I speak at GovCon events about 20 times every year, so I get to see up close venues that I might not normally see: associations I don’t belong to or may not have heard of, but where I an invited to speak; conferences that I might not otherwise include in my budget; briefings that are “invitation only;” and more. At some of these venues I see a camaraderie that is palpable, where shared interests dominate.

Let me share my personal criteria for attending events where I am not a speaker.

  • Networking is always key. Will I meet new people who might be interested in what I do? Will I see people I know but perhaps have not seen for a while? Networking should be key for all of us, as we each need the appropriate amount of visibility.
  • Educate yourself. If it is a conference, briefing or some other venue where information will be shared, is it likely I will learn something new? I will be speaking at APMP again this fall, and even though I am not a proposal professional, I will sit in on carefully selected sessions to pick up some tips on writing and presenting.
  • Proximity is a factor for me because I live in Central Maryland and many of the events are in Virginia. Attending a late afternoon or evening event is often more of a hassle than I normally care to deal with. Morning events in Virginia are OK, because I can leave home early, beat the traffic, and bring a book. That’s what I do for Washington Technology’s Power Breakfasts.

The search for the “right” event is never ending. I continue to run across groups, clusters of like-minded people hosting private events. 

Develop your own criteria for selecting venues that are the right one’s for you.”



Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

Relationships Remain The Key To Government Contracting Success



” It is impossible to overstate the role of relationships in GovCon. They are needed with customers and prospects, primes and subs, OEMs to channel, media, internal relationships within your company, and more. “


“This is my Washington Technology year-end wrap up column and I write this not so much to inform others but to remind myself.

I’ve had discussions lately with several of my government contracting friends, collaborators and advisors on what drives this market. The consensus from Larry Allen, David Powell, Guy Timberlake, Judy Bradt, Bob Lohfeld and others is the Big R: relationships.

I’ve taken several steps this year to re-engage with my rather large GovCon network.

As some of you know, I’ve recently joined AFCEA and am now engaged on their Small Business Committee. In 34 years I have joined only a few organizations in our market, primarily because I believe if you join you need to actively engage. I am a busy guy, so finding or making time to engage wasn’t always a priority (a mistake on my part). I have met several interesting people on the AFCEA SBC as a result, as well as renewing acquaintances with many I’ve known for a while.

I spoke at the Professional Services Council’s new Marketing and Communications Network (a working group within PSC) back in September and they’ve invited me to attend some subsequent meetings.

Picking the right association venue(s) for you and your company is critical to your survival and growth.

Once again I had an active speaking calendar this year with Government Marketing University’s GAIN conference, the Government IT Sales Summit, Government Blockchain Association, the Tower Club GovCon group, 930Gov, APMP and several others. I get to network at each, seeing old friends and meeting new people.

Events, including seminars, conferences, briefing, etc, are a cornerstone of relationship building.

I attend briefings hosted by Washington Technology, Bloomberg Government, Gov Exec and others for both information and networking.

I started using the Calendly app (https://calendly.com/markamtower) so people can reserve time for a short call. The app shows up in my email signature line.

And I also started working LinkedIn harder to stay on the radar among my first degree connections – and it is working.

You know the annoying email that reminds you of birthdays, new positions and more? I am now responding to each one of those that comes through, and the results are palpable.

These are the low-hanging fruit of social selling and they help you nurture the relationships you’ve built into a network.

Most people respond to say thanks for acknowledging my birthday, new job, etc. But with some it sets off a whole new conversation, something along the lines of “I’ve been meaning to call/get in touch about…” I look at their profiles before sending a congratulations note and am often reminded that they are involved in something one of my clients should know about, so I do an intro with a note to explain why they need to connect.

Just over the past week I’ve had interesting exchanges with Bruce Tucker (Planet Technologies), my favorite Admin Assistant Sheila Deane (GDIT), Lynn Welch (Education Management Solutions), Sheryle Thompson (Allied Telesis), my new friend Amber Hart (The Pulse of Government Contracting), Brian Green (Learning Tree International) and others.

Will all of these generate new business? Of course not. But each will keep me closer to top of mind, and some will come to fruition.


Because we have a relationship.

Should this matter to you?

Only if you want fruitful relationships in our market.”


Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower. 


The Wonderful Possibilities of Connecting Your Fridge to the Internet




“Connecting your refrigerator to your shopping list has been a dream of manufacturers since the first commercial Internet fridge launched in 2000 by LG. But do you—does anyone—want to scan bar codes as they put food into their so-called “smart” refrigerator?  What connectivity shouldn’t do is turn you into a slave to your devices, constantly monitoring them or, worse, feeding them data.

The first refrigerator connected to the Internet was in a wired 100-year-old house in the Netherlands, where it existed alongside networked lights, doorbell, mailbox, and, yes, even a toilet. The refrigerator went online on July 12, 1998, and it’s still there. All it does is record and broadcast every time the fridge door opens. As of this writing, its owner, Alex van Es, has opened it almost 70,000 times in the last 16 years. Call it the Quantified Fridge.

Outside of the pure voyeuristic novelty, there’s not a lot of value from this information. It’s certainly not life altering, and it’s certainly not going to lead to everyone’s favorite new design pastime: behavior change. Not all data is created equal, and certainly not all of it is meaningful to collect and display. I’m pretty sure the number of times a refrigerator has been opened falls into this category.

However, one valid reason to put something on the Internet is to check its status. What is this object doing, and is that good or bad? How much energy/resources/time is it consuming? Is something broken? Connecting sensors to the right internal components and sending that data online where it can be viewed via an app or web page is a way of giving you x-ray vision. But the emphasis here is on “right.” I probably don’t care how many times the fridge door has been opened, but I do care if the compressor breaks and everything in my freezer starts melting.

And that’s the second reason to put anything on the Internet: to be able to adjust it if something is wrong. If I get an alert that the temperature inside my refrigerator is suddenly rising, it would be great to be able to do something about it: attempt to fix the problem right there, order a new part, or replace the device with a new one. You could summon a repairman to come fix it.

This kind of connecting of objects to services is the third reason to connect something to the Internet: to easily engage resources outside of the object to improve, fix, or extend the object. If my dishwasher runs out of detergent, reorder it or add it to my shopping list.

Problems that Internet-connected appliances must resolve:
• You don’t want to remove physical controls: In the early dawn light, as you groggily stand in front of your coffee machine, do you want to find your phone and launch an app so you can get your morning caffeine fix? No you do not.

• You don’t need to run general-purpose apps: “Hey, I’ve got a few minutes. How about I use the screen on my stove to surf Facebook?” said no one, ever.

• You don’t need irrelevant data: Knowing how many gallons of dishwashing detergent I’ve used over the years? Fascinating stuff.

• You don’t want unrelated data collected and sold: I don’t want my appliances spying on me, or even suspect that they do. Observe me and my patterns, yes. Spy on me, no. And there’s a big difference. Spying involves giving away private information (secrets) to people I don’t want to know them. If you are using information from my dishwasher to upsell me life insurance, that’s intrusive. It feels creepy in a way that knowing I’m out of detergent and offering to buy more does not.

Even if all of this get solved, why bother put your refrigerator on the Internet? Especially if hackers could turn it into a spam machine? So it can be smart.

The Right Kind of Smarts

Smart appliances humbly predict our needs and modestly adjust as little as possible to accommodate them. This sometimes requires connecting to the network for a better, bigger brain or to draw upon the collected intelligence of similar objects. You don’t need to stuff lots of processing power and memory into the object itself if it can use resources in the cloud. Imagine if your refrigerator could learn how to keep food cooler more cheaply by looking at the data from other refrigerators in the area? Collective machine intelligence and the benefits it could engender such as fixing model-specific problems and product efficiency are good reasons to enable network connectivity.

We can also have a conversation with smart appliances. They can tell us what they’re up to when we ask, or tell us something’s wrong when it’s essential. They can observe our lives and provide small insights we don’t even notice. They can talk to other appliances, and pass along helpful information, the way that Nest Protect will tell the Nest thermostat to shut off the furnace if it detects carbon monoxide.
We can have a new relationship with our appliances, one where the previously mute boxes of plastic and metal become new platforms—not for apps, but for meaning and value. By learning how we use them and how we live our lives, they’ll be able to provide services to us we can’t see right now. They’ll set themselves up and fit into the existing household by knowing what—and who—is there and adapting to them. Appliances will grow and change with you and the house.

Connectivity, just like installing a microprocessor was decades ago, has to be a means to an end: more effective, more efficient, more resilient, more transparent, more powerful, more interesting, more enjoyable, more adaptable products.”