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Association consolidation

While we are talking about changes… Up until the announcement about the disappearing schedule contractors, one of the more interesting stories out there this week to me is the announcement last week that ITAA and GEIA are looking to merge.

There are all sorts of story lines here.

On the micro level… Apparently these talks have been ongoing for at least a year, in one form or another. The ITAA-GEIA talks come as the Electronic Industry Alliance announced over the summer that it was essentially breaking up. GEIA was the government arm of EIA.

As I spoke to many different people about this during the week, most said that the ITAA-GEIA merger could be a good one for these two organizations. ITAA has a strong lobbying arm, while GEIA has its annual Vision conference, which has volunteers who go out and do an assessment of the government market and provides a vision about what agencies are focusing on. Unbeknownst to me, GEIA apparently also does standards work. So these two organizations could merge in a holistic way.

That being said, mergers are always difficult as you try to bring cultures together and get a single organization pointing in single direction with a single vision and focus. So the due diligence stuff that the organizations are working through now is, in some ways, the easy stuff... and they've been working on that for at least a year. There are simple questions like leadership issues – who is in charge at the new organization? Those apparently haven’t been resolved yet.

The macro story, to me, seems to be that this market is shrinking – or maturing... or changing... or evolving… whatever you want to call it, but part of this is an economic market determination that all of these groups simply can’t survive. In fact, this is probably not the first such merger. Just about everybody thinks that this merger is only the beginning -- they are rumored to be in various points in the discussion but none far enough along to be considered real yet, from what I understand. (From what I have heard in the last few days, just about every group is in talks in some form or another. Again, nobody will confirm anything.)

I have spoken to a ton o' people from all of the groups -- none of whom want to be quoted in any way, of course -- but there seems to be a consensus that there simply are too many associations. Companies are just tired of paying multiple dues for similar (if not overlapping) services. And there are all sorts of talks that this is not the last of the mergers in this arena

One person told me that companies are just tired of having literally dozens of different groups. Just off the top of my head, there is ITAA, GEIA, the Coalition for Government Procurement, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, AFCEA with its various chapters, there is GITEC, AFFIRM, ACT, IAC, NDIA, TechNet, ITI ... here in DC, there is the DC Chamber of Commerce and the DC Technology Council. There is also the Business Software Alliance, which doesn't deal with government IT stuff all that much as far as I can tell. And that doesn’t even begin to touch tech groups out of the Silicon Valley.

My guess is that there will be consolidation among the mostly government groups as well. There is some odd framework of mostly government organizations – GITEC, AFFIRM, ACT – all of them are, of course, closely associated with IAC. Personally, manI have never fully understood the relationship and I during the past week, many people suggested that there could easily be a consolidation among all those groups.

So, mergers are in the air. But it is another indication of what a competitive world it is these days. For all of us, we have to show value – each and every day. Each and every person needs to contribute. There is no rest for the weary. In my world, my goal is to do something in each and every issue of the magazine that gets you to read it – so it ends up at the top of your reading pile rather then at the bottom of that stack. If I don’t do a good job of that, we become irrelevant – and you find other places to get the information you need. The same is true for associations – if they don’t make sure they take care of your needs and provide you with some value, people and companies vote.

So… no rest for the weary, I guess.

Posted on Nov 13, 2007 at 12:17 PM


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