Aug 03 2016

Illinois Proves That Data Sharing Is Caring

In state CIO Hardik Bhatt's work to transform Illinois’ IT department, his first win was getting agencies to share data internally.

When calls are made for revolutions, transformations and disruptions within an organization, you might assume that the big things matter most. But in reality, making small changes can have huge impacts on processes and efficiencies.

So when Illinois CIO Hardik Bhatt set about to reimagine the state’s IT department, one of his first tasks was getting the various agencies within the state to start sharing data. To the average layperson, that sounds like a no-brainer and seems like it should have been simple. But as anyone who understands how government IT works, it was anything but simple to pull off this agreement.

Bhatt announced in a LinkedIn post in May that he and the Department of Innovation and Technology and the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) achieved a major victory in business intelligence by getting 13 HHS agencies to agree to the Enterprise Memorandum of Understanding (eMOU) for interagency data sharing. Breaking down this silo is something that Bhatt and HHS leadership saw as a game changer.

“While many people interact with multiple health and human service agencies in Illinois, our current ‘siloed’ data structure means that each agency only sees the customers’ use of services for their particular programs,” said Illinois DHS Secretary James Dimas, in a press release about the agreement. “Consequently, we have great difficulty assessing how the lifetime use of health and human services programs impact the total well-being of individuals and families. The eMOU provides the opportunity for Illinois’ health and human service agencies to share data with each other and thereby understand how we can optimize human potential through our collective resources.”

Not only that, but it also came together in record time, in Bhatt’s view.

“This eMOU is a major step forward in providing better services to the taxpayers of Illinois,” Bhatt said. “More than a dozen agencies agreeing to share data to improve services for taxpayers while creating a more efficient work product is historic, and to have done this in only seven months is equally significant.”

Data Sharing Is Just the First Transformative Step for Illinois

The enterprise data sharing agreement in May was one of several signs of Bhatt’s efforts to drive Illinois’ IT operations and strategy into the future. The search is still on for an overall chief data officer (CDO) for the state, as Bhatt highlighted in a recent LinkedIn post.

“A cross-functional team (business, technology, data) is in place. The CDO will continue to fill out the team and complete the toolsets, while building short and long-term executable strategy,” Bhatt wrote. “Part of the DoIT organization, the CDO will work with a cross-functional leadership consisting of agency directors, agency business owners and other senior leadership of the state.”

And, more recently, Bhatt celebrated the official launch of the state’s Department of Innovation and Technology, which replaced the various agencies that handled IT for the state before.

“Something seemingly impossible only 15 months ago becomes reality today. The Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT) launches, bringing the 1,700 strong workforce and IT spend of the executive branch under one roof. This was a huge team effort. The Governor, his leadership team, agency directors, agency CIOs, the technology leadership team and employees all engaged in this for months to make it happen,” Bhatt said.

As Illinois embarks on its transformation mission, data sharing, increased collaboration and strategic planning seem to be laying a strong foundation for the state’s future.