September 30, 2010    /    by

NASCIO Conference Day 3

Day three at the NASCIO conference began with a keynote session led by Thornton May, who is an IT Futurist, Executive Director and Dean at the IT leadership Academy and Author of The New Know: Innovation Powered by Analytics.

NASCIO Conference Day 3

Day three at the NASCIO conference began with a keynote session led by Thornton May, who is an IT Futurist, Executive Director and Dean at the IT leadership Academy and Author of The New Know: Innovation Powered by Analytics. This session was interactive (we broke into short table discussions at several points in the talk and reported back via a traveling microphone). If you ever get a chance to see Thornton May live - do it!

This was my favorite session of the three days. Thornton May is not only a thought-provoking speaker, his presentation was fun and funny with a very different type of supporting graphics. He makes his points through great questions and a wealth of stories which help provide possible answers using data/analytics.

He started by stating that we are in a unique moment is history. Our key questions should be: What has changed? And what will change? He asked the audience to offer three things that will be different three years from now. (This was a table discussion topic for three minutes.) Some report-out answers included:

  • Leaders will be challenged to do more with less
  • Staff will work for multiple companies
  • More part-time workers
  • A more polarized political situation
  • Security issues will grow in the world
  • More connectivity with government to citizen engagement
  • More online self-service with government


Thornton May asked the audience members to discuss trends in the answers they heard, which included:

  • More shared services
  • Leadership changes
  • Better connectivity
  • New world of virtual work with more choices
  • Security issues


Thornton jumped into the theme that "Next" will be different, so what are you doing about it now?

In 2005, a survey of senior business executives said that Information Technology (IT) was 24% effective. In 2009, 23% of senior business leaders said that IT was effective. He stressed the point that we need to use data better to drive results. Information such as:

  • $75 billion is wasted on IT projects every year
  • 80% of our IT dollars are being spent to "keep the lights on."
  • Research says that the next 5 years will be ugly for state and local government budget revenue


As for answers to improving, we need five skills to be successful in the new normal according to the speaker:

  • Self knowledge
  • Other Knowledge or empathy
  • Environmental Knowledge or sense making
  • Movement Knowledge or Vision
  • Value Knowledge or Innovation

Innovation is converting ideas into cash. Invention is converting cash into ideas.

There are four IT "New Knows" that we must understand:

  1. Where are we?
  2. Where do we want to go?
  3. How do we get there?
  4. How do we convince others to come along?


The key to being successful is to have mutually agreed upon objectives with the business. Our questions will bias our answers, so we need to go to the destination and work backwards (or be outcome focused.)

His main point was that we need to see data differently. In four years we will have (at least) twice as much data as we have now. We are at an inflexion point, and everything is moving faster. Things are out of sync, and the CIOs need to be bringing synchronization back. Look for big picture trends and focus on the outcomes.

Thornton showed again that he is an optimist who is passionate about improving IT/business results - by the numbers. (I plan to buy his book.)

The last session of the NASCIO Conference was: Leadership in Tough Times: Implications for the Transition. The session was moderated by Jerry Mechling who is the Research VP at Gartner and an Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The panelists were Teri Takai, California CIO; Phil Bertolini, CIO of Oakland County, Michigan; and Stephen Fletcher, CIO for the State of Utah.

The focus of the discussion was on the just-released paper from Harvard University entitled: Leadership for the New Tough Times: Priorities for IT-enabled Government Innovation. The dialogue was fascinating with each of the panelists telling stories and sharing insights on how to change government culture and work differently in these very difficult budget circumstances.

The paper offers insights for the transition and preparing for the new administrations. I will post a link to this excellent paper when it becomes available soon.