State CIOs on the Spot

Communication> Technology <Collaboration

I recently had the distinct privilege of moderating a panel at the NASCIO annual conference in Philadelphia.  The panel, titled, “State CIOs on the Spot,” did just what the session title suggests – it gave seven state CIOs the opportunity to address burning questions, submitted in advance by NASCIO’s corporate members.  Not surprisingly, all the questions focused on vendor-partner relationships, CIO success, and government innovation/transformation.

I was struck by the diverse backgrounds the CIOs have. For instance, some had spent many years in Public Service, but others logged many years in the Private Sector.  A few have held their position for less than one year, yet others have been with in their position for more than five years.  Also of note, some – but not all – came from an IT background.

But perhaps the biggest takeaway for me is how important collaboration is to every aspect of success for any given state CIO.  From the vendor-partner relationships to the ability to innovate and transform government, collaboration is key, we all agreed.  For the state CIO, this becomes more important as the average tenure for this post is approximately 2.5 years. In order to hurdle the significant challenges the CIO faces, this person needs to be the neutral facilitator –Switzerland, if you will – that brings all stakeholders to the table to affect compromise. 

Technology is accelerating a much-needed, profound and fundamental shift in the way government relates to its customers.  This stands in stark contrast to the traditional methods for how we once interacted with government, whether it was by voting, writing letters, calling our representatives, or standing in lines to meet with agency workers.  These channels just don’t work anymore.  For the first time in history, people are using the same tools through which they communicate to entertain themselves.  The blend between information, communication and entertainment is seamless.  Technology is shifting power away from the bureaucratic administration into the hands of the people, and state CIOs are getting ready for this transformation, using technology as the enabler for their own internal transformation. 

While the majority of the panelists agree that infrastructure-related items should be centralized to achieve efficiencies and economy of scale, there are others who believe all technology, including applications, should be centralized.  It’s difficult to affect the type of transformational change required without centralizing the application landscape.  The core knowledge of an agency’s mission still resides, siloed, in a specific agency.  Without bringing the application landscape into a centralized or unified framework, agencies won’t understand that they are actually repeating a lot of the same functions.  Applications will become more effective, more efficient and more cost effective, if done with a unified approach and agency collaboration.

Our great country started with the focus on local government control and leaders.  The industrial age brought the expansive role of centralized government.  Today, we are entering the age of control by the people, which makes perfect sense as government exists for the people.  So how do you engage the people in government?  Today, it has to be fun, it has to be social, it has to be habitual, and it also has to support the needs of the many in the government marketplace. State CIOs need to make sure they have their states prepared for this fundamental shift. The ones who start using technology as the enabler to bring communication into collaboration will be well positioned for transformation.

To see a video of the panel visit here.