Sledding to the Finish Line: Seizing Opportunities in SLED FYE

The 2024 fiscal year-end is coming to a close for 46 states, which means that it’s time to put on those running shoes and take advantage of any last minute, end-of-year opportunities. State, local and education (SLED) organizations are already game planning where to funnel resources and dollars in next year’s budget, highlighting the top priorities and challenges that will shape future downstream requirements.

Key points to keep in mind:

  • With fiscal year (FY) 2025 on the horizon, SLED organizations are beginning to draft budget plans and request for proposals (RFPs). This is a critical time for customer engagement and relationship-building, as established and strengthened customer relationships will serve as a steppingstone for future contractual and procurement opportunities.
  • Design your SLED fiscal year-end (SFYE) sales development strategy to fit industry best practices, fiscal trajectories, and unique agency priorities and challenges — this will help to maximize your success and yield more profitable long-term results.
  • Purchasing trends vary across states and organizations. For example, some states are known to be heavy spenders early in the fiscal year, some like to be more even-tempered with consistent year-round spending, and then of course there are those that choose to go into a Q4 buying frenzy. Effective SLED selling is a year-round effort, and awareness of specific buying patterns and timelines is crucial when it comes to planning requirements-shaping conversations.

So where exactly are states placing their biggest bets this SFYE, and what are the biggest IT investment areas we can expect in late 2024 and 2025?

The 2024 National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Midyear Conference took place in National Harbor, Maryland in April, where state leaders discussed top technology priorities, challenges, and lessons learned. Key focus areas included artificial intelligence (AI) with emphasis on generative AI, data management, accessibility, and governance, cybersecurity and risk management, and modernization and the digital customer experience.

We are already seeing AI’s effectiveness in shaping government operations across all verticals and creating a runway for organizations to adapt to the changes of today’s modern world. Through its various applications such as natural language processing, task automation, image recognition, and smarter policymaking, AI can boost government efficiency, enhance the citizen experience, and make day-to-day business operations more efficient and effective.

Naturally, cybersecurity is still a high priority for state chief information officers (CIO) and will continue to drive purchasing decisions for state and local government end users. Cybersecurity threats have become more prevalent nationwide, with bad actors becoming increasingly more sophisticated as their access to technologies such as artificial Intelligence increases. An all-hands-on-deck, whole-of-state approach to cybersecurity involving interagency collaboration and governed under a secure framework such as Zero Trust is key.

As we approach SFYE and head into FY25, technology companies can seize opportunities for solutions that can help shore up cybersecurity posture such as software and firewall protections, securing a reliable backup system, cyber training for staff and testing for vulnerabilities, systemwide multi-factor authentication, continuous security monitoring, encryption, and cloud backup processes.

Improving the Customer Experience continues to be a top driver for SLED leaders, as today’s modern world highlights the importance of individualized services that support agility, accountability, transparency, equity, efficiency, and adaptability. Community trust in administrative decision making is another focal point here, with a lens on transparency and accountability. Digital services lay the foundation for established trust and transparency and can provide the public with a stronger sense of government involvement.

SLED customers are now taking a modern and innovative approach to technology adoption, and there is no doubt that citizen-centric digitization efforts are influencing procurement trends. You will want to design messaging around how your tool or solution can supplement your customer’s efforts in addressing unique pain points, priorities and challenges. Be ready to discuss the benefits your solution can provide when it comes to operational efficiencies and streamlined service delivery. End users are looking to boost capabilities around real-time data-driven insights, enhanced security and privacy, and better equity and accessibility.

Many of the opportunities for the state and local market are also driven by federal funding streams, so understanding those underlying drivers will be key. For example, SLED organizations will continue to utilize monies from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which houses grants programs such as the $1 billion state and local cybersecurity grant program and the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) program.

As part of the nation’s efforts to close the digital divide and bridge gaps in digital equity and accessibility, broadband and connectivity continues to be a top priority area. Under the BIL, $65 billion was allocated to improve broadband internet access in rural areas and make it more affordable across the nation. These broadband grants, for example, will create pathways for IT companies with solutions in networking, telecommunications, storage, collaboration and reporting tools and security.

As we are coming up on the end of June, now is the time to consult and engage with your SLED customers on the relevance of your IT tools and solutions and how they afford long-term opportunity to organizations. Decision-makers will be vying for opportunities to modernize their technology infrastructure and support their efforts to become leaders in innovation. Keep in mind that decision-makers are more likely to invest in new technologies if they have visible examples of successful implementation of that product or solution elsewhere. The next couple of weeks will serve as an excellent time to showcase your solutions to SLED IT decision makers and those shaping downstream IT requirements.

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About the Author: Yvonne Maffia is the senior analyst covering state, local and education markets. She applies insights and analysis to purchasing trends to help vendors and partners shorten their sales cycles. Prior to joining TD SYNNEX Public Sector, Yvonne spent 8 years working in state and local government, where she oversaw advisory boards across the State of Florida and served as an analyst to a local politician. Yvonne currently lives in Washington, DC.