Jun 26 2017

New Jersey Moves to Centralize Executive IT Branch

Legacy equipment and nonessential software could be getting the boot from the state’s executive IT office.

Consolidating and modernizing IT systems are top of mind for state technology leaders across the country these days. And with the aim to bolster efficiency and modernize its legacy systems, the garden state will begin doing just that as it moves to centralize its executive branch IT.

At the start of June, Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order instructing the state’s first chief technology officer, Dave Weinstein, who took the post a year ago, to begin the consolidation. Ultimately, the CTO will look to keep up with the fast-changing technology landscape and “deliver more secure, efficient and reliable IT services across the Executive Branch,” according to a statement put out alongside the EO.

What Goes and What Stays in New Jersey’s IT Overhaul

New Jersey invested $10 million over the last year to bolster the state’s cyberdefenses as well as reduce risks, the statement notes.

“Secure and efficient IT operations are of little value if they are not reliable, which is why we are engaging in multi-year projects to boost the dependability of the state’s network and hosting environment,” Christie said in the statement. “We are making New Jersey’s digital domain better than we found it.”

Now, the CTO will look to conduct a thorough review of the state’s software functions that reside in the Office of Information Technology with the aim to remove agency-specific software functions. “Only software functions that are used by more than one agency or across the Executive Branch will remain with OIT,” the statement reads.

“What I’m really saying is I am tired of having each department have their own IT stuff,” Christie said at a news conference at the Office of Information Technology. “It makes no sense. We have an Office of Information Technology, they should manage this, they should run it.”

Furthermore, the state will look to centralize its hardware. This task requires all state agencies to provide the CTO with an inventory of their hardware assets, “including computer, storage, network and data center assets,” and identify those that need modernization by June 30. After that, the state agencies’ IT leaders have 180 days to provide proposals around how to decommission legacy hardware.

“This puts every Cabinet member on notice that for the last seven months in office, we are going to inexorably begin the conversion to a centralized IT function at OIT,” Christie said during the conference. “Bob Martin can focus on protecting the environment, not worrying about how his IT is working. Beth Connolly can worry about dealing with the human services she has across the state. Allison Blake is taking care of children and families. And so on and so on.”

The Benefits of Moving to a More Centralized Government

With this centralization, the state will look to move away from data centers and to the public cloud for IT infrastructure services.

“We’re going to take a hybrid approach. We want to leverage a central agency, my organization, the Office of Information Technology, for data center purposes,” the CTO told Government Technology. “Every decision we’ve made over the past year assumes that the future will involve a hybrid strategy as it relates to hosting services, so we feel confident we’re well postured to operate in that world moving forward."

The state is not alone in looking to modernize legacy systems. According to the National Association of State Chief Information Officer’s 2016 state CIO survey, 90 percent of the CIOs considered at least 20 percent of their systems “due for replacement or modernization,” while nearly two-thirds of CIOs saw more than 40 percent of the systems as legacy.

But some states are seeing success in investing in the move to a more modernized structure. Texas, for instance, embarked on a legislatively mandated IT consolidation effort in 2016, which saw the Department of Information Resources (DIR) reduce use of legacy data centers and shift resources to “two regionally diverse state data centers.” The state has since achieved 75 percent of its consolidation target, modernizing legacy systems and introducing newfound agility into the organization.

For New Jersey, centralization also means taking the opportunity to move closer to an IT infrastructure that can allow the state to move at the speed of business.

“On a more abstract level, I think the EO gets us closer to establishing a unified identity around IT and cybersecurity within the executive branch and state government,” Weinstein told Government Technology. “Gov. Christie’s words and actions get us leaps and bounds closer to a world in which we are operating like a true enterprise IT organization.”

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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