During the webcast, state CIOs explained how they have shifted their own offices and other state agencies to remote work setups. They also described how governors and other state cabinet officials have come to realize how important state CIOs are to maintaining business continuity and uninterrupted delivery of government services, and why they need to be part of the conversation with state leaders.
Massachusetts CIO Curtis Wood said he and his team have tried to help state agencies focus on what data and applications they need access to and what their priorities are, and less on the technology needed to accomplish that.
“What do you need to get done?” he said during the webcast. “Then we can build a technology platform around it.” The pandemic and stay-at-home orders from governors has proved, Wood said, that “we all need a seat at the table.”
How States Pivoted to Telework Environments
Tennessee’s state government has had a formal work-from-home policy in place for the past six or seven years, Dedmon said. Before the pandemic, about 30 percent of the workforce took advantage of it, though not full time.
With the onset of the pandemic and the governor’s encouragement, the state quickly moved to “deploy all the tech we needed to up our game,” Dedmon said. Now, 54 percent of the state workforce is working from home full time.
Tennessee purchased 2,200 laptops via emergency procurements “to equip the additional workforce that wasn’t capable of working from home,” Dedmon said. The state runs on Cisco’s WebEx and Jabber platforms and has been providing users with support for those, she added.
In Massachusetts, the state is in the process of shifting to a Microsoft 365 environment, according to Wood, with a single device for each user. Right before the pandemic hit in mid-March, the commonwealth’s human resources department had just published a new policy on telework, Wood said. Executive agencies were a little reluctant to adopt it, due to a history of preferring to provide direct services to residents, but now they are more enthusiastic about it.
Prior to the pandemic, the state had about 1,000 employees working from home on any given day. The state was able to procure 7,200 laptops in four to five weeks for state employees and now has 20,000 employees working from home. Roughly 85 to 90 percent of all back-office workers are working remotely, Wood said.
That shift was not without its challenges, and Massachusetts had to ramp up its VPN infrastructure and capacity. The state focused on essential services but has been pleasantly surprised a how successful it has been in setting up remote desktop infrastructure, Wood said.