From left, Patrick Moore, Managing Director of Integris Applied; North Carolina CIO Eric Boyette; Virginia CIO Nelson Moe; and Dean Johnson, COO of the Georgia Technology Authority, speak about the role of the state CIO.

May 07 2019

NASCIO Midyear 2019: How to Navigate the Role of ‘CIO as a Broker’

State IT leaders need to be dynamic, flexible and cultivate relationships with their governors and lawmakers.

Last year, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers fully embraced a new model for state CIOs known as “CIO as a broker,” in which CIOs would broker procurement for products and services with state agencies rather than acting as mere fulfillment agents and technologists. But what does that mean in practice? 

Tuesday at the NASCIO Midyear 2019 conference in National Harbor, Md., three state IT leaders offered a variety of perspectives on how to put the model of CIO as a broker into practice.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Follow @StateTech on Twitter for continued NASCIO Midyear 2019 conference coverage. 

They noted that the role of the state CIO is constantly evolving, that CIOs need to maintain service and a strong relationship with the governor and legislature during times of transformation, and that IT leaders need to have dynamic operations models.

State CIOs Must Manage Numerous Pressures

State CIOs face numerous challenges that they need to handle on a daily basis, according to North Carolina CIO Eric Boyette. He said IT leaders face four key forces. 

They include a political force, which requires state CIOs to pay attention to the needs and priorities of their state’s governor and legislature. Those relationships are essential, he noted. 

Another is the market force. The technology market is continuously changing, which requires CIOs to be agile. 

Yet another force is that of the customer or constituent, Boyette said. They want and expect government to be able to provide a seamless digital experience similar to that of private sector companies like Amazon and Netflix. 

The final force is the internal force, which pushes CIOs to figure out how to balance their staff, get new projects accomplished and maintain the systems and data they have

“If you look at this role, it’s really a journey,” Boyette said, noting that over his time in government, the role of the state CIO has evolved from that of an IT manager to a director to a Cabinet-level post. 

“I’m excited to see what the future looks like for us, and what our talent looks like,” he said. “How do we make sure our talent is prepared so that when we leave, the future looks great for us?”

MORE FROM STATETECH: Find out how different states are going on a smart state journey. 

Virginia Adopts a New Model for IT Services

Virginia CIO Nelson Moe noted that many of the state’s service level agreements for IT were written “back in the days of Blockbuster, when we all had Blockbuster cards, and the cassette tape.” Those contracts did not help the state keep up with customer demands and changing technologies. 

To transform, last year Virginia inked a new deal with SAIC to manage its IT infrastructure delivery and adopted a “new services model that allows a variety of shorter contracts from different suppliers, rather than the single IT contract the state has held with Northrop Grumman since 2006,” as StateScoop reports. The Virginia Information Technologies Agency awarded contracts for messaging, mainframe, multisourcing service integrator, managed security, network and server storage, and voice and video network services.

Moe laid out a list of do’s and don’ts based on Virginia’s experience. Some don’ts included trying to migrate 60,000 email users at the same time during an election season, using litigation to resolve contract migration disputes and changing all IT services at the same time. 

Actual best practices included determining how bad the status quo is in IT and the level of desire for change and engaging in long-term strategic planning. 

Moe said state CIOs should “establish and maintain immutable program principles” such as getting the governor’s support for the IT agency’s financial model and maintaining services for state agencies

“Expect a lot of hard work,” Moe said. “Sometimes you don’t feel like you are going anywhere.” Virginia worked with consultants to conduct market research to help it manage requests for proposals and contract awards. 

State CIOs must also maintain robust stakeholder management and governance, Moe said, which is key to getting through tough times and uncertainty. It’s crucial to get buy-in for digital transformation from the governor and legislature, he added. 

MORE FROM STATETECH: Discover how new Colorado CIO Theresa Szczurek sees opportunities in digital government and innovation.

Georgia Embraces Dynamic Model for IT Operations

Dean Johnson, COO of the Georgia Technology Authority, said the state has adopted a “dynamic operations model” to enable the idea of a CIO as a broker. Johnson noted that states need to “integrate services into a single format that your customers can easily consume, easily understand and adapt to.” 

In 2008, Georgia outsourced its IT infrastructure and managed networks services, since its technology was old and the state at the time lacked the skilled IT staff to manage the infrastructure.

From 2009 to 2015, the state undertook a transformation program to consolidate, optimize and virtualize its environment, which Johnson said was “very successful” and resulted in “secure, reliable, recoverable infrastructure.” 

However, though Georgia had solved its original problem of modernizing its infrastructure and delivering services in a consistent way, the state was still not flexible or adaptable enough, Johnson said. State agencies were asking for new technologies that the GTA was unable to deliver quickly enough.

So, the GTA decided to work with a multisourcing services integrator, which has been a “game-changer” for the agency, Johnson said. The state was able to go back and recompete all of its infrastructure services to create more competition and diverted its IT services for everything from end-user computing to servers. 

The integrator enables GTA to take a strategic approach to manage and oversee the services, according to Johnson. GTA now thinks in one-year, three-year and five-year timelines and is able to “be more strategic and get underneath the business needs of the agencies.” 

Having a very solid delivery system and a dynamic operations model to meet the day-to-day needs to agencies enables Georgia CIO Calvin Rhodes to stop spending all of his time “putting out fires.” The new model enabled Rhodes to spearhead the creation of the state’s new Cyber Center last year, a massive collaborative effort with the federal government, local government, state higher education institutions and the private sector. 

“I don’t believe this opportunity would have come along if Calvin was buried under the minutia of day-to-day operations,” Johnson said.

Read more articles from StateTech’s coverage of the NASCIO 2019 Midyear conference here.

Photography by Phil Goldstein

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