We’ve arrived at a time when even the perception of security somehow being a “barrier” to value-add initiatives within Government, comes with enormous risk.

The dramatic pandemic-driven shifts have showcased IT and security as key enablers for ensuring the continuity of critical Government functions and services. As a result, they now find themselves in the spotlight. However, given fiscal and procurement realities, many also now find themselves in a “do more with less” situation, as they continue to navigate through a mix of budgets that need to play catch up with current realities, surging demand for services and the ongoing complexities of telework.

In these tough situations, security may be viewed by some IT leads as a place to impose cuts and absorb risk without apparent impact, until a major breach occurs, that is.

In my conversations with Government IT leaders, it’s clear that those who seek to foster collaborative cultures that emphasize the partnership, not the differences, between IT and security teams, tend to have an advantage. They are more likely to achieve their objectives and create the long-term, business continuity and productivity strategies that Governments desperately need.

The good news is that it doesn’t necessarily require a grand strategy. Even small actions can have a big impact. Start by making a commitment to “be the change” you want to see. Anyone who has attempted to embark on an innovative, long-term project knows that a culture or institutional thinking not conducive to change can quickly bring digital transformation plans to a halt.

So, make 2021 the year of fostering cross-functional partnership between security and IT leaders and, acting together, build bridges with other senior decision makers across the organization. Commit to modeling this kind of behaviour on a daily basis and take concrete steps to encourage that collaboration. Others on the teams may soon follow suit.

This is not to say that Governments have traditionally failed on this front, far from it. But as we really begin to understand the true impact of the pandemic one year in, it will need to be brought to the next level. Such collaboration will be increasingly necessary for success, not just a ‘nice to have’ feature.

Next, as you strive to work together, don’t get caught in the weeds. Agree to focus on long-term technology initiatives that get to the core of the challenges and opportunities facing Governments at this critical juncture. It’s important to keep running smoothly despite the pandemic’s many ripple effects and its likely impact on resources and demand for services. Since IT and security teams can’t count on being able to spend more to meet the growing demand for digital services, they will need to spend smarter and a tight working partnership makes this achievable.

From there, strive to layer in speed as you move forward together. Many of the conversations I’m having now with Government leaders are focused on technologies related to multi-cloud and Security-driven Networking, which are likely to show excellent return on investment, in terms of performance and efficiency. These technologies are also proven to work in a wide variety of environments and have clear implementation paths, which are intrinsically secure.

We’re living through challenging times and those tasked with ensuring business continuity and smooth operations deserve a great deal of credit for their hard work and quick thinking for the work they’ve done. Now’s the time to seize momentum and seek ways to balance the planning and procurement cycles that Governments must be held accountable to, while striving to achieve their digital transformation goals in a timely manner. The transformational changes wrought by COVID-19 bring with them the opportunity to innovate and find new ways for Governments to succeed. The best way to achieve that is for security and IT teams to commit to working together and driving a change agenda that will benefit citizens and Government leaders alike, for years to come.