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How state CIOs manage their expanding customer base

State CIOs are increasingly focused on their customers, whether they are residents, employees or other agencies, a new survey found.

Customer needs and viewpoints permeated the responses that 49 state and territory CIOs gave in “The Responsive State CIO: Connecting to the Customer,” a report the National Association of State CIOs, Grant Thornton and the Computing Technology Industry Association released Oct. 15.

For instance, 75% of respondents said they have active customer relationship management initiatives in place, and 14% said they are planning a formal program. Almost all -- 90% -- said that individual in-person meetings are the most effective means of interacting with customer agencies.

CIOs are also working closely with local counterparts. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they provide security infrastructure and services -- an 11% increase from 2016, the last time the survey asked about these interactions.

“This is also in alignment with what we know, anecdotally, that states are providing security-as-a-service type of programs to local governments -- for example, managed security services, election security, phishing training, cyber response teams and ransomware response, among others,” according to the report.

What’s more, 60% of respondents said they provide network services, 56% said data center hosting and 33% said cloud solutions or hosting.

Cloud is another area still very much of interest to CIOs, although the survey notes that the number of respondents with cloud migration strategies in place fell to 34% this year from 41% in 2018. Reasons for that decrease may be that almost 40% of respondents are new CIOs who are likely working on their own strategies, or agencies are delayed as the number of strategies in development rose to 51% this year from 37% last year, according to the report.

Unsurprisingly, CIO respondents also said cybersecurity is a top priority. Eighty-six percent of respondents said they are implementing continuous vulnerability monitoring this year, compared with 81% in 2018, and about half of respondents said they use analytics and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence to manage cybersecurity. Forty-four percent of respondents reported using them last year.

Overall, CIOs are getting more say at the cybersecurity administration table. Ninety-two percent of respondents said they lead or participate in policy-setting, compared to 88% last year, and 90% said they are responsible for cyber program oversight, compared to 86% last year.

A new topic in this 10th annual survey is IT cost management. Most state CIO organizations operate as internal providers of IT services to state and other public entitles on a chargeback, user fee or comparable basis, the survey found. Forty-six percent said all services are fully covered by rates, while 35% said some costs are covered by a general or special fund. This model may be too inflexible to be sustainable, leading CIOs to look into other options that are more aligned with state budgeting processes, the report states.

“From establishing dedicated units to managing customer relationships to increasing the transparency in how they charge for services, CIOs are now more than ever treating strong customer relationships as vital to their success,” Graeme Finley, principal with Grant Thornton’s Public Sector practice, said in a press statement.

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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