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State CIOs look to agile

A preliminary survey released by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and consulting firm Accenture on April 24 shed new insight on how states are implementing agile technology.

Seventy-four percent of respondents think an agile approach increases customer engagement and business ownership.  Other benefits cited include improvements in customer satisfaction (71 percent), quality (68 percent) and transparency (65 percent).

Respondents included one to five officials in each state -- from CIOs to agency employees who worked on IT efforts for their departments.

Half of the officials only had three years of experience using agile in their IT efforts, but 31 percent had used the method for more than three years.

“There are a wide range of approaches that states are taking right now,” Keir Buckhurst, managing director of Accenture’s public service practice and lead author of the report,  said during a panel discussion at NASCIO’s mid-year conference.  “There are some states that have supporting agencies that handle IT, and others that are looking at what other states are doing to improve their efforts,” he said.

California Deputy CIO Chris Cruz said his state takes a “federated” approach when it comes to managing IT.

“We understand that agile isn’t for every project, but it is being adapted into our initiation and planning models now,” Cruz said.  “Having our products standardized with agile is going to help with our risks down the line.”

Another benefit of the agile model is the ability to initiate changes in providers or contracts if CIOs realize that the current strategy isn’t making progress as intended.

Rather than the typical model of intermittent technology upgrades, the agile developers are constantly updating the project to keep up with the security threats and new innovations.

Ninety-eight percent of survey respondents agreed the frequent updating is providing value to the customers, and 87 percent said they think there is more success in starting with agile in discrete projects.  Once customers get a feel for what the agile approach brings to the technology space, there are more opportunities to bring it into more complicated systems.

Minnesota CIO Tom Baden said he wants to use the agile method when the state looks at new products whether they are “off the shelf or cloud based.”

“With agile, you can have the business partners working there with you at the same time, so they are helping to manage the scope of the product,” Baden said.  “The combination of measurements that utilize the creativity at the same time can be very effective.”

However, Cruz said he doesn’t think the agile approach is a “panacea” that can fix everything in state government.

“Since we are a large federated state, we need to manage the risks across the portfolio,” Cruz said.  “If the project is more low risk, then the agile approach is easier to implement.”

For more information on how state CIOs are looking at agile technology methods, a copy of the preliminary survey results from NASCIO and Accenture can be found here

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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