A record number of new governors took office this year, causing unprecedented turnover among state CIOs. While confronted with pressing policy issues and serious shortfalls, newly appointed CIOs have encountered what National Association of State CIOs Executive Director Doug Robinson calls a "tough-times agenda." Public-sector IT leaders must place top priority on cost-cutting and operational efficiency.
Although budgets are bleak, the bright side is that challenging circumstances bring ample opportunity for improvement through strategies such as consolidation and virtualization.
"Oklahoma has such a heterogeneous environment and distributed-service delivery model that we can cut costs simply by optimizing and simplifying," says Oklahoma CIO Alex Pettit.
In our feature story, "Setting the IT Agenda," veteran and new CIOs identify ways to navigate the technical and political landscape and hit the ground running, including: taking inventory, rationalizing and consolidating, streamlining infrastructure, baking-in security and targeting IT efforts.
One such initiative capturing CIOs' attention is cloud computing. NASCIO research shows that 39 percent of state CIOs have already ventured into the cloud, and another 54 percent are exploring it. Up for considÂeration: public clouds, which feature software or computing power available on demand through a service provider; or private clouds, in which organizations assemble and manage infrastructure on their own or contract with a hosting firm. Hybrid models are also available.
Many organizations understand the appeal of cloud computing but are a bit foggy about whether public or private clouds are right for them. A public cloud could be fine for many agencies, especially for delivering software as a service (SaaS). However, state and local governments that deal with sensitive, regulated or mission-critical data or require customization might be better off building or buying a private cloud.
Douglas County Libraries in Colorado had long wanted a new e-mail system, but the staff lacked the time to perform such a complex rollout, says IT Director Monique Sendze. By opting for the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite messaging and collaboration service, the library system gained advanced features and more capacity for less than it was paying annually for the old system.
The city of McKinney, Texas, had different needs. After McKinney's data center flooded last fall, CIO Chris ÂChiancone sought a new location. In the end, he outsourced the back-end infrastructure to a managed services provider. That choice was cost effective, and it frees his group to focus on more customer-facing technologies and speed the deployment of new technologies.
For more highlights of cloud computing success stories and advice about factors to consider before embarking on a rollout, turn to "Cumulus Benefits."
Anyone who has undergone the pain of a home remodeling and renovation project knows it's something you only want to do once and get right the first time. It's not so different with network overhauls. You never know when you'll next receive funding for capital investments, so the trick is to implement infrastructure that lasts long after it's paid for.
To build longevity, follow the advice of three local government leaders who embarked on major implementations, such as Gigabit Ethernet and Voice over IP. See "Future-Proofing Your Network" to learn about the projects and the decisions these IT leaders made.
Ryan Petersen, Editor in Chief