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I recently gave a presentation in Redmond to a delegation of leaders from the telcom industry. While the topics covered opportunities in a city and use cases for their technology, the foundation of the discussion and what brought this group together was the focus and reality that this is about a partnership.

Governments want strong partnerships that are wide in their view and deep in their commitment. Brief partnerships can be a nice set-up for quick wins, but the ones that last build on those wins for lasting impact.

One of the things that excites me about my work is the consistent focus on the importance of building strong partnerships to solve problems for customers. Coming from a background in public sector roles in which partnerships played such a significant role, it has been exciting to see those partnerships on two fronts:

  • First, partnerships with governments themselves.
  • Second, partnerships with other companies to use our combined expertise and technologies to bring innovative solutions to government-specific problems.

Both are crucial to long-term success and equally important to helping our customers achieve their missions.

With that in mind, I’m looking forward to heading to Los Angeles for the ITS World Congress, set for September 18 to 22, 2022. This year’s theme is “Transformation by Transportation,” which will see world leaders and policymakers explore the growing intelligent transportation systems (ITS) industry.

Microsoft will be there with a booth on the main expo floor, and we’re bringing partners into our booth to share how they can advance transit and transportation. This has me thinking more about how to make sure government partnerships work.

Why partnerships work (and how you can make sure they work for you)

Public sector organizations are filled with public servants who bring years of expertise to their agencies’ missions, such as building and maintaining transportation infrastructure or city planning. Strong partnerships help bring outside industry knowledge and experience to augment that subject matter expertise. It’s all about using collaboration as a lever to achieve greater outcomes.

When engaging in this kind of partnership, it’s important to think not just about what each organization brings to the table, but how those skill sets can best work together. When we bring together Microsoft, our partners, and the public sector organizations, we see impressive results.

Within government, and particularly when it comes to infrastructure, I’ve seen increasing complexity over the past 5 to 10 years. That’s a good thing! It means that governments are thinking across traditional boundaries and silos with their projects, something that is sorely needed to ensure that we are meeting peoples’ needs. Along with that complexity comes the need for teams and technologies that can work in complex environments.

A well-constructed partnership will bring together the right combination of people and technology to match the complexity of the project. We recently worked with Transport for Greater Manchester and HPE to create a modern technology ecosystem that helps them manage their data now while providing flexibility to solve future problems.

Partnerships share the work

Implementing infrastructure projects can take years. That’s why the investments we have seen being made globally are projected to be spent over the next decade. But even after they are complete, plans need to be made to maintain the infrastructure and good partners should be committed to supporting over the long haul.

As I recently discussed with the CEO of Infrastructure Western Australia, Philip Helberg, that means long-term planning and outcome measurement must be part of even near-term infrastructure projects. In this environment, bringing in experienced partners helps distribute the workload across the organizations involved in the work to help ensure the critical work gets done and disruptions have less impact.

Startups: The forgotten infrastructure partners

Governments have long struggled with the desire to embrace more flexible and responsive ways of working, while also balancing the need to remain transparent, compliant, and accountable to constituents.

Major infrastructure companies are champing at the bit to get started on projects around the globe spurred by recovery spending, but startups have an important and overlooked role in this moment. Now, governments can leverage the flexibility and speed of startups to build a parallel track for infrastructure modernization that leverages the power of startup challenge programs in three ways:  

  • Ability to move quickly and try multiple ways to solve concrete problems, such as building more electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. 
  • Get results quickly to help build momentum for positive infrastructure changes. 
  • Generate economic growth as we recover from COVID-19 by supporting the startup ecosystem. 

How do we get started?

Partnerships come down to relationships, and there isn’t any shortcut I know to build them. You’ve got to show up, earn the trust of your partners and shared customers, and really show how the value you’re bringing to the field is higher together than it would be apart.

Building partnerships is an interpersonal endeavor. But it’s also a strategic decision that private sector organizations must make and a commitment that public sector organizations must also make to build the systems they need to support creative, collaborative work.

I’m always energized by meeting our partners in person and getting down to the business of figuring out how best to help our customers. That’s what we’ll be doing in Los Angeles for the ITS World Congress.

Find out how Microsoft and our partners can help empower your infrastructure projects today by visiting our Microsoft for Critical Infrastructure web page.