“Oh that must be challenging.”
…is what people sometimes say when I tell them about my role in public sector digital transformation. They then give me their impression of public services as too large and slow-moving.
Well, in some ways they’re right. The public sector has a solemn duty to help citizens lead healthier, intellectually richer, more equal and inclusive lives. And the fact is that duty can sometimes require consultative processes and quite gradual change.
It goes without saying that public services have become even more vital to communities this year. Though, there’s been another huge change – digital transformation has accelerated.
This year, public service projects that may have taken two years suddenly needed to be completed in two months.
It takes trust to move faster.
I’m sure you can imagine, this acceleration has been both exhilarating and challenging for all of us at Microsoft. But that new pace of change can only happen in an atmosphere of implicit trust.
‘Trust’ – a word we use regularly – is quite difficult to define. In everyday life, it’s a feeling of confidence in the principled intentions of others. When I’m speaking to our public sector customers, however, trust also means moving beyond the merely transactional. It means having confidence in our platform, our security, privacy and compliance. And confidence that both parties are committed to a long term relationship, with shared goals, shared philosophy and a shared vision for the future.
Without that trust, it would be extremely difficult to innovate and change, making this year’s increased speed of digital transformation impossible.
A transformative year for public services.
I’m extremely proud of what we’ve been able to achieve with our customers this year. The healthcare sector is a large part of my remit, and we’ve done some fantastic work there. But alongside that, we’ve also collaborated with organizations spanning almost every level of government. And that includes those firmly rooted in history and tradition, like elected assemblies and law courts.
Some parliaments had never seriously contemplated the possibility of going virtual. Partly because of anxieties over security. However, with innovations like Election Guard and the initiative to protect this year’s U.S presidential election from foreign cyber interference – Microsoft has shown that its secure technology can be trusted with responsibilities as momentous as safeguarding democratic process. And I think that explains why legislatures and judiciaries trusted us to implement online sessions and digital voting.
Another example is Mayo County Council in Ireland. Firstly, lockdown meant they had to move their entire workforce onto Teams. But beyond that, they were able to be inventive with the platform. They set up a helpline which allows constituents to connect directly with council staff via Teams. And in turn, staff can use it to link citizens with essential services like medical prescriptions, hot meals and groceries, as well as other council services and volunteer organizations. It’s proven critical for the elderly and others more at risk from Covid-19.
Trust had been established with Mayo County Council through a longstanding partnership. They had been using Microsoft 365’s cloud-based platform and security systems for some time. They trusted these technologies to handle their security and compliance needs, which enabled us to work together in record time – implementing the entire solution in a matter of weeks.
In this way, we’ve seen that once trust is established between public organizations and Microsoft, creativity gets unleashed. New possibilities for innovation present themselves, and new opportunities emerge.
A better future, built on trust.
As our technology advances, our relationships with customers need to deepen. They don’t have to fully understand the complexities of things like data telemetry or cloud architecture, or how we use AI and machine learning for intelligent security. That’s why we serve them. That’s why trusted partnerships are so essential today.
Public bodies can trust that, when they partner with Microsoft, we’re not simply selling them a solution – we’re in it for the long term. And all of our research, development and cyber-security work is now also working for them.
Trust means public sector decision makers can feel more assured and confident. As we’ve seen throughout this year, our expertise, innovation and world-leading security and compliance capabilities mean public organizations can move faster. They can innovate to create the smart, citizen-centric and data-driven public services of tomorrow.