W.Va.'s Schafer steered NASCIO through year of CIO transition

When West Virginia Chief Technology Officer Kyle Schafer took over the reins of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers in 2010, he had one big goal: to successfully transition the unprecedented number of new CIOs into the organization.

At the beginning of 2011, there were 29 state CIOs with less than 12 months on the job, as a result of the election of new governors and retirements in the previous year, Schafer said.

NASCIO has been on an upward curve the past four years, and no one wanted to lose that momentum.  “So our goal was to transition these new state employees coming in, to engage them early on and continue the momentum,” Schafer said. He also wanted to make sure that NASCIO kept up with its committee commitments as well as federal commitments and partnerships, Schafer told GCN during an interview at NASCIO’s 2011 Annual Conference, held Oct. 2-5 in Denver. 

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At the conference, Schafer had just turned over the reins of NASCIO to Oregon state CIO Dugan Petty, who will serve as the organization’s president for 2011-2012.

“We had two CIO transition training sessions with the new CIOs coming in,” Schafer said. NASCIO also produced a transition handbook that was sent out to all CIOs, even if they couldn’t make it to the meetings.

“That was our biggest goal last year, to sustain CIO environment,” Schafer said. “Because if we start losing new state CIOs, we would start losing [our Corporate Leadership Council] customers also,” he said. Corporate partners help finance the organization and want to engage directly with state CIOs, he added. NASCIO has increased the number of corporate members, which now stands at 111.

Schafer also pointed out that this is the first time that all 50 states are actually members of NASCIO. “Not only have we sustained and maintained the level of CIO participation, we’ve increased that to every state in the union.” 

Schafer’s second goal was to enhance communication and collaboration tools. So this year, NASCIO implemented an online collaboration tool that allows states to share ideas and set up blogs. Communities are set up for various topics, and CIOs can post information to each other and share contracts, he said.

With a committee structure already in place, NASCIO was able to focus on technology trends such as cloud computing, and that work will continue with the new president, he said.

The hard work of pushing for more flexibility in how states spend federal funds started to yield some benefits this year as well. The money given to states is controlled by federal cost allocation guidelines issued by the Office of Management and Budget through OMB Circular A-87.

"We have been advocating for many years that there needs to be modifications to A-87, to give states more flexibility in the way states spend money,” Schafer said. “This year our voice has been heard.”

President Barack Obama directed OMB to take a look at this issue of flexibility in state spending. OMB has put together a committee, and Schafer co-chaired one of the committee’s sub-groups on cost recovery modifications. Recommendations from the committee and sub-groups have been submitted to OMB, and they will be reviewed by the Obama administration within the next few months.

“We know we’re not going to see significant modifications of A-87,” Schafer said. However, “we think we have our foot in the door to see real reform around federal cost allocations” and getting the states more flexibility in how they spend those dollars.



About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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