e.Republic and the evolution of a data product

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Through its events, publications, Web sites and research centers, e.Republic Inc. focuses on information technology in education and state and local governments. These markets do business very differently than the private sector, and e.Republic executives learned early on that IT companies had a lot to learn about the public sector in order to successfully sell their products and services. Out of that practical need grew two subscription services e.Republic now sells to its clients—Digital Government Navigator and Digital Education Navigator. Cathilea Robinett is an exec VP who oversees e.Republic's Center for Digital Government and Center for Digital Education. The Navigators are products within those centers. Robinett said subscriptions for the services vary, with the opening price for one seat in the Digital Government Navigator costing about $10,000. Subscriptions for Digital Education Navigator cost less. IT companies subscribe because “we are filling a business development and sales process role for them,” she said. When the Digital Government Navigator was launched in 1999, it contained key contact information and descriptions of the way individual states do business. “From there, we expanded to the 100 top counties and 100 top cities,” Robinett said. Contact information began to include senior government officials who influence IT purchasing as well as the purchasing decision-makers. “Then we added Requests for Proposals. Everything in government is done through RFPs,” Robinett said. Later this year, the Digital Government and Digital Education Navigators will be relaunched simultaneously. “Because of the Web, information is just a commodity today,” Robinett said. “We have to keep pushing the envelope and providing new tools while we make sure we are giving our users the freshest, most relevant information to help them do their job.” The upgraded sites will have improved search functionality and a personalized “MyNavAgent,” where subscribers can store searches, contact information and their Hot Lists. A major new addition will be a networking feature similar to LinkedIn. “This is a major advance for us,” Robinett said. “In government, many times companies come together to compete for business. There's no way in this market right now for companies to identify other companies that might be interested in jointly bidding on a particular opportunity.” While some companies may choose to be open to other members of the community, others will want do decide who will or won't see their information. “We are sensitive to the fact that there's so much competition going on in this marketplace,” Robinett said. —M.G.
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