In hard times, state CIOs gain clout, survey finds

State chief information officers’ influence is on the rise as state governments turn to them to help bring order during a time of economic upheaval, according to a new survey released by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.

CIOs are at the nexus of numerous state decisions on cost, services, contracting and workforce issues.  As their clout increases, they need to find ways to use their newly found influence, according to the 2011 state CIO survey, sponsored by NASCIO, TechAmerica and Grant Thornton LLP.

“Governors and  legislatures are increasingly turning to state CIOs to provide leadership and expertise in IT services as well as ideas for transforming service delivery, bolstering program results and delivering cost savings,”  the report says.

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“A New C4 Agenda: Perspectives and Trends from State Government IT Leadership” was released at the NASCIO 2011 Annual Conference, Oct. 4.  The conference was held in Denver Oct 2 – 5.

During the summer of 2011, 51 state and territorial CIOs took part in a wide-ranging survey of state IT topics. Seventy-one percent of the CIOs say their role and clout is increasing; only 6 percent believe it is decreasing.

“We think that the reason for the increase is that states are going through major upheavals and CIOs are stepping forward to help bring order,” the report says.

Rationalizing and centralizing state IT services are a top priority for 67 percent of the CIOs. Fifty-five percent are looking to control IT costs and 53 percent are hoping to improve IT governance and portfolio management in 2012.

The major barriers to effectiveness include inadequate budgets, agency resistance to change and conflicting priorities among state program agencies, the report says.

Because legislation plays such a big role in state government, IT executives must interact with legislators and legislative staff to be effective. Two-thirds, or 67 percent, of CIOs have direct contact with state legislators or their staff five or more times per year. Another 18 percent have contact three or four times per year. The primary reason for legislative contact is to answer specific questions regarding IT issues, 90 percent of the CIOs say.

Almost all CIOs are changing the way they deliver IT services as a result of budget shortfalls. Based on the 45 CIOs that responded to questions about financial management, funding and budgets, the average CIO organization has three revenue sources.  These include: fees for service/chargeback, general funds, direct federal funds and grants and assessments against agency IT budgets and agency personnel outlays/headcounts, the report says.

Additionally, the push to consolidate IT services is driving an increased need for collaboration. Eighty-four percent of the CIOs said they collaborate with other state program agencies such as health, human services or geospatial information systems.

Consolidation and shared services are a top priority for many of the CIOs, and the survey gave them a list of 12 services and asked which ones they had either already consolidated, were currently consolidating or were planning to consolidate. The top five they were considering, had completed, were ongoing or in the planning stages were: Telecom, e-mail, data centers, security and backup/disaster recovery.

Florida CIO David Taylor said the state had completed telecom consolidation and will complete e-mail consolidation in a year. Florida is about half way through data center consolidation initiatives and is considering security-as-a-service. There is also proposed legislation for disaster recovery as a service, he said during a panel discussion providing insights on the survey at the NASCIO conference. Taylor participated in the survey.

Other aspects of the survey focused on cloud computing, outsourcing and IT workforce, health care, business intelligence and analytics and mobility.

For instance, investment in cloud computing increased slightly in 2011 compared with last year, Doug Robinson, executive director of NASCIO, said during the panel discussion.  Fourteen percent of the CIOs say they are “highly invested” in the cloud, compared with only 5 percent last year.

CIOs “are slower to pull the trigger” on cloud investment as they consider all of the ramifications of moving to the cloud, Robinson said. Given the increase in government cloud activity over the two months since the survey was conducted, we might find that more states are invested, Robinson noted.

Some of the major challenges to cloud adoption relate to funding streams and how to pay for cloud services and infrastructure, one CIO in the report says.

Still, 75 percent of the CIOs say “cloud computing changes their roles, either by creating opportunities for change or by changing perceptions that they are just about providing support.”  Cloud computing is an on-demand model that allows users to pay for only the computing resources and services they use.


About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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