I had the chance to be with 6 State, City and County CIOs at the Industry Summit 2015 event in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The CIOs shared their vision, struggles, wishes and mistakes with a small group of industry folks.
Here are a few things I took away from the show:
A State CIO's job is not unlike the private sector CIOs. State CIOs struggle to be seen as responsive, adding value, being innovative and being strategic. “IT is unresponsive” is a common view here too. A great deal of their time is spent on communicating up/down/across the State organizations showing how IT can add value and help deliver better business outcomes.
They have to deal with old legacy systems. The term “IT debt” was used to describe not investing in IT systems for 20-plus years in some cases. IT debt is often the result of the lack of funding that has occurred in the past few years. These older systems may also be written in COBAL, making them hard to maintain.
There was a good discussion on the need for customer experience or citizen engagement for the public sector. David Garcia, Maryland’s CIO, said CX is “absolutely” needed. Jack Kelanic, Tacoma’s CIO, said CX is “paramount” and the mayor is a strong advocate of CX. Jack said cities often have a stronger focus on CX than States do. Jack wants to see citizen CX on par with commercial CX using analytics to predict citizen needs and offer solutions before they reach out. He is looking at testing such analytics with their utility company. Otto Doll, Minneapolis’ CIO, said there has to be a cultural shift within the state organizations to really focus on and deliver CX.
With a lot of focus on IT budgets (which are huge), Doll said we need to focus on where the real leverage is. He said IT budgets might be 2% of the overall agency’s budget. If we focus on how to improve that 2% and how to improve KPIs for IT operations, we miss the point. Otto reminded us that the goal of IT is to help programs achieve their mission and goals. He said IT solutions offered by vendors need to address strategic issues as well as operational issues if the solutions are to have a leveraged impact.
At the end of the conference I headed to airport for the trek back to the East Coast. I ran into Tom Baden at Starbucks and we chatted as we waited to begin boarding. He reiterated his desire to build a strong, open and innovative IT environment in Minnesota over the next three years. To get there, States will have to go through significant organizational change. That is one reason why all CIOs said a large part of their jobs is to be agents of change with an eye to the future.