Stephanie Dedmon has been a champion for Tennessee as a state employee for roughly 15 years, ascending to the role of state CIO in October 2018. StateTech caught up with Dedmon to explore her priorities as CIO and her approach to achieving those goals, particularly with her strong background in state government.
Dedmon also discussed the value of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, given that Tennessee will host her state CIO peers during the 2019 annual gathering of NASCIO members in Nashville from Oct. 13 to 16.
STATETECH: You’ve been CIO of Tennessee for a year now. What are your current priorities, and how are you achieving them?
DEDMON: We’ve been working on a cloud migration strategy. We’ve been in the process of developing a very thoughtful plan and understanding all the things that we need to evaluate and be aware of, and what tools will be needed. We started in earnest around July, with the beginning of the new fiscal year. So, we’re pretty early in the process, but that’s a big priority for us. By this time next year, we want to have the right tools in place to support our agencies in being more agile and beginning to develop more in the cloud.
We also are looking at more enterprise data analytics and getting more serious about data sharing, connecting our data, and then working with those vendors that can help us really see data in a new way to solve problems differently. Do we have the right programs? Are we serving our citizens the best way we can?
A third priority would be mobile apps. We’ve been working on a single platform. We’ve actually been at this awhile, and we are gaining more speed, but we hope to really move that forward in a more significant way during the coming year.
Finally, we are really focused on creating a culture of innovation, not just within IT, but across our state, to explore how we come together and solve business problems.
STATETECH: Are there any specific tools you’re exploring? I’m particularly interested in your cloud journey because a lot of folks share that priority with you.
DEDMON: Instead of specific solutions, we’re using tools such as an agile procurement process that we developed using the National Association of State Procurement Officers’ managed service provider model, which gives us the ability to acquire solutions when we need them. Having a more agile procurement process enables us to shorten the time frame to get a vendor partner on board and to move faster.
For cloud, one of the objectives of our migration strategy is to identify the tools to connect to our future cloud partners. We perhaps may have a hybrid cloud model and not put all our eggs in one particular vendor’s basket.
STATETECH: Have you faced any other challenges in this first year, whether anticipated or unanticipated? And what successes have you seen already in Tennessee?
DEDMON: Over the past three or four years now, we’ve been consolidating the agency’s IT staff into our central IT group for a number of reasons, but primarily to have more consistency and better standards. So many states struggle with large project implementations. We had a model where, if something went awry, the CIO might be asked, “How did you let that happen?” And the answer was, “Well, I had no control over it. The agency IT teams were leading the project.”
So, we’ve been consolidating, and in this past year, we transitioned to an internal service fund for how we bill back the agencies. We moved to a cost model without really spending enough time with the agencies to explain why we were doing that and what they could expect. Now, we are working on better cost transparency to our agencies, so they understand how we bill them. In some cases, they were getting access to additional resources that they didn’t have in the old model, but they didn’t understand that.
So, we learned that we need to be more transparent.
As for our recent successes, we implemented a software asset management program to help better manage our software licenses and overtime and to avoid costs for duplicate or unused licensing. So, we’re looking forward to continuing to see some savings there.
We worked with all of the agencies to develop a cyber incident response plan for each agency. We’ve also implemented an enterprisewide emergency communications system for our governor’s office and the department of human resources to alert employees.
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STATETECH: Tennessee is hosting the NASCIO annual meeting this year. How has the organization been a resource for you and the state of Tennessee?
DEDMON: NASCIO is a very helpful organization. It’s beneficial to attend the conferences and to network with my peer CIOs and CISOs. We learn from hearing what other states are doing. In some cases, we find out that we’re not alone in some of our challenges. In other cases, we find out where some other states have had success. We definitely learn from each other.
NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson has been to our state several times in the past few years. He testified to our legislative committees about IT procurement and some of the work that NASCIO has done with us. It’s always helpful for our legislators to hear from outside experts and understand what we’re doing well and what guidance they may have.
STATETECH: What leaps out as most relevant to Tennessee when you look at the top 10 priorities identified by state CIOs in the annual NASCIO survey?
DEDMON: What really stands out to me is customer relationship management, which, for us, is literally citizen relationship management. We don’t currently have a single view of our citizens. Each agency owns that individual relationship, and I’ve asked if we should be exploring CRM and building more of a complete view of our citizens so that we can better help them and share information across agencies where it makes sense.