In Tough Times, Collaboration Tools Help Government Navigate New Era

Scott Price, Microsoft

Scott Price, Microsoft

If Scott Price has COVID-19 top of mind these days, that’s hardly surprising. As acting general manager of Microsoft U.S. Public Sector Services, he’s been working since the outbreak began, to ensure government can continue to perform its most vital functions, even in extraordinary times.

Price joined Microsoft in 2014 as head of the National Security Group, and currently leads the Public Sector Services organization. With the global pandemic, he and his team have been working side by side with government agencies to help ensure continuity of operations.

“For some agencies, the capability was already there, the ability to work remotely or from home,” he said. “But now, we are talking about completely pivoting to over 90% of the organization working remotely. For federal agencies, the No. 1 thing has been continuity of operations, and we’re helping them use M365 to collaborate more effectively and increase productivity to fully enable their mission.”

Agencies at a higher level of readiness have been able to self-serve, putting these collaboration tools to use almost immediately. For others, Microsoft has been augmenting their teams by delivering technical expertise.

“We’re helping them work through bandwidth issues and address security concerns specific to government networks,” Price said. “Mobility, identity management and connectivity are really important . . .  as well as helping ensure their security posture is as rigorous as it needs to be.”

Employees first

In managing through the pandemic, Microsoft has put an even greater emphasis on the well-being of its own employees.

In addition to work-from-home protocols, the Public Sector team has compressed the workweek so those with children or elderly loved ones have time in the morning and afternoon to manage family needs. Price has also established a grant-a-wish program to support special requirements among those directly impacted by the pandemic.

“Our CEO has truly set the tone for employee safety and accommodations,” he said. “We get weekly briefings from senior leadership based on the medical and scientific communities informing us about current trends and back to work protocols to ensure our own safety. We have closed all face-to-face engagements and will likely be working from home at least through October.”

Senior management is taking steps now to procure needed supplies, including face masks and testing kits, in anticipation of an eventual return to physical workspaces. They’re also looking at ways to modify the workplace to support safe working conditions.

It’s not just the office staff who benefits. 

“The company is doing things to support all of our retail employees, as well as hourly workers like those who are employed on our campuses to do food service and transportation,” Price said. “Microsoft’s response during this time has been incredible. This situation has really brought out some of the best in companies, and I’m thrilled to witness it here at Microsoft.”

Externally, the company has been leveraging its own connectivity tools to keep up robust communications with its government customers, even in the absence of in-person conversations.

“We’ve found that we actually can communicate and be extremely productive,” Price said. “With our collaboration suite of products — Microsoft 365 and Teams, in particular — we get to see each other and be productive together. The engagements have been extremely rich.”

A new cloud vision

Even as Microsoft navigates the complexities of the pandemic, Price and his team continue to work toward the company mission: “Empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.”

At present, that includes an all-hands effort to bring the promise of cloud to fruition. Many government agencies take advantage of cloud-based applications like Microsoft 365 and have crossed the lift-and-shift threshold, moving some compute, storage and even some high-value workloads into the cloud. Now, they are poised to take the next step.

“Customers are going beyond just the ‘utility’ of cloud, taking the things they do on-prem today into a cloud environment,” Price said. “We’re shaping a more transformative concept. Now, it’s about using the cloud to harness the data, to extract insights, to rethink how they conduct their mission.”

That shift focuses on what Microsoft calls Intelligent Cloud, Intelligent Edge, which provides the ability to access the resources of the cloud anywhere, from any device — as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning as drivers of a deeper use of cloud.

Within the national security space, Microsoft is specifically taking the power of the cloud to the edge.

“When you find yourself in scenarios where classic connectivity is not available, the question is: How much capability can you put in a disconnected environment at the edge that mirrors a connected environment?” Price said. “There is a lot of work being done there by Microsoft and others to create that seamless capability right at an edge application.”

A veteran of the national security space, Price has a personal appreciation for the importance of the government mission, and the role technology can play in making government more effective.

“This is a critical mission, and that mission definitely gets into your blood,” he said. “I have a real appreciation for the good work that our civil servants do. Especially now, in these uncertain times, they serve an absolutely pivotal role. That’s what gets me really excited. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of.”

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