A baseball adage says that when a pitcher throws you a curveball, you hit it to the opposite field. But what do you do when the pitcher hurls a fastball right at your head?
The public safety version of this scenario occurs whenever system or technology vendors consolidate, either through merger or acquisition, an action that often places their customers in a very precarious position. Agencies immediately wonder whether their already deployed systems will be supported in the same manner as before the consolidation.
Often, they are not, in part because some number of administrative, engineering and service personnel typically leave a company after a consolidation.
Worse, systems and equipment often are eliminated in the aftermath of a consolidation, usually because of product redundancies. Preparing for system and equipment end of life always is challenging, but it becomes terrifying when it occurs suddenly and with no warning. Public safety agencies are in the business of saving lives and that becomes significantly more difficult when communications systems are rendered inoperable because replacement components or maintenance services cannot be procured—because they no longer exist.
Consolidation During Implementation
Vendor consolidation also has a powerful impact on public safety agencies when they are implementing a new communications system—along the lines of getting hit in the head with a fastball. Right now, we are helping several clients deal with the fact that the vendor of their new communications system has been acquired during the procurement process and the new company has decided that the proposed system will not be offered by the newly-formed company going forward.
System and equipment procurement and implementation always are stressful even when things go according to plan, but when something like this happens, stress levels go off the chart. Affected agencies are now in a predicament. Should they simply procure the runner-up system? If that isn’t an option—and it likely isn’t because there were very good reasons behind why the first system was selected—an agency might have to start the procurement process from scratch and reissue the request for proposals. This is a considerable waste of time and resources.
There are other industry-wide impacts spawned by vendor consolidation.
One concerns the engineers who will be cut loose in the aftermath of a merger or acquisition—which almost always happens for various reasons. When it does, many of those talented people will end up innovating in sectors other than public safety. In addition, when solutions are removed from a marketplace, the surviving solutions usually become costlier to procure, driven by the laws of supply and demand. That’s a problem for every public safety agency because every agency, sooner or later, will be procuring new systems and equipment, either to address lifecycle considerations, particularly end of life, or to take advantage of technology evolution.
Note that vendor consolidations are nothing new—they occur in every private and public sector, including public safety, and have pretty much since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. However, they seem to be happening more often these days in the public safety communications sector, a trend that we see accelerating for the foreseeable future, which is alarming. Consequently, every public safety agency should be taking proactive steps to mitigate the impacts of vendor consolidations.
Here are a couple of strategies that our experts use as we help our clients with system acquisitions:
- Insert language into RFPs and subsequent contracts that describes the remedies the vendor will provide to make the client whole if it fails to deliver on its promises as the result of a consolidation.
- Insert language into RFPs and contracts that describes how the vendor will compensate the client financially if the procurement must be repeated as the result of a vendor consolidation or product becoming “end of life” before implementation is completed.
- Insert language into RFPs and contracts that describes how the vendor will compensate the client financially if the project timeline must be extended because of a consolidation or vendor delay.
This is just one of many issues to which our experts lend their skills, knowledge and expertise to protect our clients during complex system procurements and implementations. We’d love to help you avoid or at least lessen the impacts of these industry trends toward vendor consolidation. Think of us as your batting helmet—please reach out.