California CIO Amy Tong (second from left) addresses NASCIO 2018 in a panel discussion. 

Oct 23 2018

NASCIO 2018: State CIOs Boost Modernization and Transparency by Brokering Services

Released today by NASCIO, a report on a survey of state CIOs identified issues driving the brokerage of products and services — as well as the challenges of this new model for doing business.

A report on the latest survey of state CIOs by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) reveals that public officials seek cost-effectiveness and modernization in adopting roles as brokers of IT services, but face challenges in governance and funding.

Released Tuesday, the “State CIO as Communicator” report, published by NASCIO, Grant Thornton and CompTIA, looks at a survey of all 50 states to identify priorities and trends within CIO leadership. NASCIO focused on the interest of CIOs in brokering procurement for products and services with state agencies rather than acting as themselves as fulfillment agents.

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The report shows that the turn toward brokering services is driven by desire for cost-effectiveness, modern capabilities, high-quality service, good business outcomes, access to resources and flexibility, among other factors.

However, CIOs face challenges in fully implementing a brokerage model. Those challenges include a lack of operational governance, current funding levels, concerns over supporting specialized requirements, and a fragmented procurement environment.

“Governance is a bigger challenge than the technology,” said Grant Thornton Principal Graeme Finley in a presentation of the survey findings at NASCIO 2018. “As states transition to the new model, they take on a role as a systems integrator, which is traditionally fulfilled by a contractor. And states aren’t always ready to do that.”


Strong Business Processes Yield Accessibility for Citizens

California CIO Amy Tong echoed those sentiments, highlighting accessibility as a chief concern. “It’s less about technology being made available to constituents; it’s more about accessibility,” Tong said. “It’s about being able to gain access anywhere at any time.”

Tong’s constituents increasingly expect government to provide similar technology experiences as the private sector, providing access to information easily, she said. But acquiring more technology isn’t the key to meeting those expectations. “It’s really about a business process transformation,” Tong said. But “anticipating human behavior” is the biggest challenge in striving to meet those goals.

Minnesota CIO Johanna Clyborne emphasized the importance of exploring citizen expectations. “How do we allow the Minnesota citizen to access state government in a way that’s intuitive?” she asked. Too often, projects proceed without exploring that vital question, she said.

States Close Gaps and Simplify with Portfolio Management 

The ability to provide government services digitally is key to success, but states often face a lack of agency readiness, complex legacy systems, prohibitive rules and other challenges in digital transformation, the NASCIO report said.

One way in which states meet the challenges of digital transformation is to manage their technology portfolios well, enabling them to simplify and close gaps. Good portfolio management also provides states with capabilities to track budgets, reduce risk and support system lifecycles.

Portfolio management scares people because they think they are going to lose control,” Clyborne said. But in reality, strong portfolio management empowers CIOs with transparency. 

“It is about simplicity,” Tong said. “Going through that exercise is kind of scary, but once you reach that level of clarity, you will be surprised at how much more you can do.”

By acting as brokers to state agencies, CIOs also have flexibility, which assists them in making small, iterative procurements. Employing a multivendor strategy and serving as systems integrator empowers California to be nimble and see faster outcomes, which makes the case for continued funding in future years.

Read more articles and check out videos from StateTech’s coverage of NASCIO 2018 here.

Mickey McCarter

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