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The Importance of Partners in Moving Past the Pandemic

As 2020 continues, government technology leaders must engage all their resources — including vendors serving the government market — to chart a path forward. Here are seven things to expect from private-sector partners.

Closeup of two business people shaking hands. Blurred white background.
As the year 2020 speeds by, there are some who would say good riddance. And while there have been tough times so far, we have been reflecting on what IT leaders have been through and all that is to come. You are all champions of the needs of the people and we are honored to be working with you to make government better. One aspect of these troubling times that has come shining through is your ability to partner across government but also with the private sector to respond to new challenges and demands. The responses to our Digital States and Digital Counties surveys illustrate this very point. In responding to the pandemic, you are keeping an eye on the future. To be successful in the future, partnerships are critical.

Recently, we provided advice to our private-sector partners on what it will take to work with government moving forward. We used the word "partner" to enhance the narrative and help partners prepare as we emerge from the pandemic. We will use that same word here but shift instead to what you should expect of your partners.

P – Punch In: Working to achieve your goals as you exit the crisis will be hard work and partners must be ready to punch in and jump in. You are already reviewing your current contracts to determine the viability of existing work and where projects will go next. Your partners must be ready to provide flexible alternatives to the challenges that you face with people, processes, technology, and policies especially in light of budget issues. 

A – Advise: You need advice from your partners now more than ever. The next normal will shift leadership priorities and require technology to shift as well. Your partners must ensure that the solutions you seek are packaged to address problems and are priced appropriately so costs will not be a barrier. You will grapple with everything from the people issues of social distancing in physical spaces to the technology and budget issues of modernizing your infrastructure for remote work. They need to bring the creative solutions that are critical to you as soon as possible. You will need to determine how to engage with your partners to provide a forum for these critical discussions.

R – Relate: You will not have time to educate partners on your needs so they must do their homework so they can relate to your problems and bring effective solutions. You will be saddled with the need to determine essential staff, essential processes, and essential technologies to make everything happen. Walking in your shoes will enable partners to bring the right solutions to the table. 

T – Timing: Now is not the time to review new technology opportunities that are not critical. In the near term, the value partners bring is to help you reshape your direction to meet near term demands. You will be laser focused on bringing your functions back up to full speed in an uncertain health environment: getting people back to work while managing a hybrid remote work environment and advancing digital services. There will be a time for longer term discussions, but not right now. And when that time comes, your partners will have proven their ability to contribute.

N – Navigate: Finding the right people to talk with during this time is difficult. While remote work has advantages, it does not replace the ability to meet face to face, develop relationships and explore new ground. Partners must use their ability to engage through opportunities like digital webinars, which could be paramount to that first connection with you to expose them to your needs for their expertise and solutions. Partners engaging with you digitally provides the entry path but sustaining the conversations will be a must. Partners must understand your time pressures but still embrace the fact that you need their solutions sooner rather than later.

E – Engage: You are currently working to understand what skill sets you have internally to move forward. This next normal will be an opportunity for you to assess what you have and determine what you need. Leverage existing relationships by engaging your partners to help with both technology and skills. This is the time to strengthen these relationships and look for new opportunities to grow.

R – Respond: You will need your partners to respond to both your immediate requests as well as requests for new solutions. In turn, it will be important for your team to provide timely responses to partner proposals, solutions and suggestions. Both sides of the partnership will need to be agile and flexible, which requires clear and consistent communication. Budgets are changing, priorities are shifting and your ability to respond requires a strong team with clear direction.

No one can simply go it alone when providing quality services with strong enabling technologies. You have all worked diligently to engage your peers and share what does and doesn’t work. Private-sector partners are also an incredible resource to help you get where you need to go.

As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

The value of technology has never been more apparent, and the funding may be on your doorstep. It is time to execute and do more together. As always, we are here to help.