Partnering with neighborhood experts

Last month I blogged about the partnerships you should build inside your organization. In keeping with that tone, it's time we discussed expanding that partnership mentality to include some of the best technical resources you can ever get hold of: the ones that work in your neighboring cities, municipalities, counties, regions, townships etc.

Come on folks, these people are already doing exactly the same things as you! Can you imagine a better pool to be able to choose from if you are in dire need of assistance for that server that just went to the great server farm in the sky, or assistance when your PBX takes an extended vacation (when you can't)?

This all focuses on a subject that we are all either thinking about, actively investigating or are already in the middle of, and that is partnering with our neighboring cities, counties, townships or whatever type of government entity you are. Providing service, being able to access service, actively working on the synergies that develop when we start to combine forces are all levels of involvement many municipalities are involved with right now. And these same people are realizing the incredible benefits of establishing and working these partnerships.

We just finished our statewide conference here in Washington where the conference theme was simple: "Regionalization of IT: Collaboration, Cooperation and Communication."  How can we survive in these times of reduced budgets and still come out ahead? How can we reduce our capacity, and yet still do more (I know, it gets old but hey, it's our reality)?

We have discovered some exciting opportunities to do just that in our area and have discovered some counties and cities already moving aggressively into the collaboration space.  It's  amazing what happens when you discover that you may not have to hire that full-time network engineer when you really only need one for a couple days a week or a month in some situations. Now we can all go out and pay high prices for private sector help,  but why? When your neighboring city or county may already have that help ready and waiting to assist.  Please don't read into my comments that all private sector support firms are in the bad guy column, there are actually some outstanding companies that are well worth the high prices. We have several under contract to assist with our high level, regional issues. But for the day-to-day stuff like email system maintenance or upgrades, network router assistance or help desk services, your neighbors are probably able to assist for a much more reasonable rate.

The benefits of these partnerships are amazing. Aside from the core purpose of maintaining our services, we are also going to establish some relationships that will pay off in spades over the years.

I had a boss once many years ago who gave me some sage advice. He said "In this business you can always hire talent, or train your people to the level that you want, but in the long run, it's all about the relationships that you establish and maintain." These people are the ones who you can call when things go south, these are the ones who will give you great, objective advice when you really need it and, since we all live in a very small world, you never know when those relationships are going to come in handy many years down the road. This is advice that I have heeded and yes, in has paid off many times.

Paul Haugan is the chief technology officer of the City of Lynnwood, Washington and a 2011 Premier 100 Honoree.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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