Today, State Chief Information Officers (CIOs) must confront a host of problems while seeking to meet citizen and constituent demands for digital access while enabling technological growth and consolidation. To aid in navigating these issues, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) recently released an updated report on the top challenges and priorities State CIOs are facing, based on a survey of 51 State and Territory CIOs.
State CIOs: Leading Change
The results of this survey serve as a forecast for the ways in which State CIOs will continue seeking to guide change and collaboration among state agencies and signal specific ways in which CIOs will seek to improve the digital health of their states in the coming months and years.
More than ever before, State CIOs are responsible for directing the digital management of their states with a more centralized approach to IT innovation. When asked what they see as the primary role of a state CIO, 55% of respondents said it was to “drive innovation or modernization programs”1 and when asked to rank the three most important leadership traits of a successful State CIO, respondents identified “Strategist” as the most important trait. This ranking illustrates a post-pandemic shift in the fundamental role of the State CIO, from an IT management perspective to someone who is responsible for “leading change, innovation, and driving enterprise solutions.”2
With this role in mind, State CIOs identified their top 10 priorities for 2023, many focusing on various aspects of digital transformation and how they are seeking to modernize and guide their state into effective digital solutions following the initial bump in digital service prioritization caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.3
Digital Government and Digital Services
Ranking as the second highest priority for CIOs was Digital Government and Digital Services. This includes constructing a framework for digital services, creating or integrating state portals, identity management, and privacy issues. As the pandemic hit in 2020, state agencies were left scrambling to make sure citizens still had access to government services and could interact with their state or local government digitally. When asked in 2022 what business process or practice State CIOs expected to continue post-pandemic, they rated “increased attention on digital government services” as number one.
Another important goal for State CIOs within the Digital Services umbrella is to improve and digitize the citizen experience. 51% of respondents said they had already implemented the use of technology for a personalized citizen experience.
One example of this is the Arizona State Land Department, which implemented a suite of cloud-based, Salesforce digital solutions and ESRI to modernize its legacy systems and, in addition to creating a customer portal, reduced paper documents by a whopping 95% and decreased foot traffic by 40%. AZ Land’s efforts are in alignment with what State CIOs are trying to do on a statewide level.
When asked about specific actions CIOs planned to take in 2023 regarding the enablement of agency digital services, they focused on infrastructure, consolidation, and centralization.
Further demonstrating this shift to enterprise-level thinking, State CIOs said the second most likely process that they expect to continue post-pandemic was “increased priority and investment in legacy modernization.” This same process was ranked in last place in 2020 and 2021, showing the forward-thinking shift that has taken place in 2022.4
Agencies like the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) undertook the pervasive need to address outdated technologies and reduce the inherent risk that it experienced while struggling to increase efficiency and serve the public in a timely manner. The ICA replaced a 30+ year old COBOL mainframe with Salesforce and integrated various legacy and modern systems using MuleSoft. Like ASLD, the ICA now thrives in a modern environment where citizens and agency claims staff, insurance providers, injured workers, and the administrative law branch benefit from efficiency and high-touch automated customer service.
Data and Information Management
Inventorying, cleaning, storing, and managing data is at the heart of legacy modernization. Agencies have a wealth of data, yet often cannot realize the value of the data due to disparity, duplication, lack of master data policies, or simply put, collection of bad data over their history.
As a result, without access to good data, state agencies are missing out on actionable insights, better decision-making abilities, and an opportunity to support constituent agencies in their cross-mission fulfillment. As a result, manhours, redundancies, and associated costs skyrocket. It’s no wonder that data and information management were listed among the top ten concerns for State CIOs in 2023.
Data governance, architecture, management, portals, and just generally using data in an enhanced role are all active concerns for State CIO organizations looking forward. Cloud-based data systems available in the market as well as a market-leading middleware system like MuleSoft are a compelling means for State CIOs to provide options for agencies that help to break down data silos, create sources of truth, and provide secure access to quality data at both the state and local level.
State governments have been adopting cloud technology over the past two decades. Yet until recently, many states did not consider cloud services a priority and often steered clear due to trust and perception issues. However, over the past five to eight years, a more rapid acceleration of cloud adoption has occurred, with the height of the pandemic creating an urgent need. The challenges that arose in serving citizens across state entities went a long way toward overcoming naysayers and making them believers in the capability and value of cloud services. Most states have ensured their procurement policies support cloud purchasing and many State CIOs have selected multiple platforms and an operating model that enables central services to support while giving agencies proven options in selecting new platforms. States are seeing the benefit of elastic services, economies in cost at scale, best practices in security, and user experience while encouraging the State’s workforce to upskill and learn new technologies.
Priority Technologies and Conclusion
Now that State CIOs have made it through the crisis of the pandemic, their priorities as determined through NASCIO’s 2022 survey demonstrate their desire to think with a wider lens about IT strategy, focusing especially on data management, digital government services, legacy modernization, cloud platforms, and deployment models. It should come as no surprise that when listing their top priorities for technologies, State CIOs included Legacy Application Management and Resources, Cloud Solutions, Data Analytics, and Software-as-a-Service in the top ten technologies they’ll be focusing on in 2023.
While State CIOs handle a wide range of systemic and inherited problems, by embracing their role as a strategist for their state and continuing to collaborate with peers and industry leaders to drive innovation and modernization, they can lead change and enable improvement of the digital health of their state.
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About the author: Ryan Smith has built a twenty-year career as an advocate for customer anx user experience by collaborating with institutions to solve real-world problems that benefit society. Currently, he serves as VP of Customer Success, Public Sector, for Mastek’s Salesforce Business Unit.
1. “The People Imperative: 2022 State CIO Survey,” NASCIO and Grant Thornton, October 12, 2022, p. 12. https://www.nascio.org/resource-center/resources/the-2022-state-cio-survey/
2. “The People Imperative: 2022 State CIO Survey,” NASCIO and Grant Thornton, October 12, 2022, p. 6. https://www.nascio.org/resource-center/resources/the-2022-state-cio-survey/
3. “State CIO Top Ten Policy and Technology Priorities for 2023,” NASCIO, December 12, 2022. https://www.nascio.org/resource-center/resources/state-cio-top-ten-policy-and-technology-priorities-for-2023/
4. “The People Imperative: 2022 State CIO Survey,” NASCIO and Grant Thornton, October 12, 2022, p. 7. https://www.nascio.org/resource-center/resources/the-2022-state-cio-survey/
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