Conversation with a CIO: Todd Nacapuy Addresses Hawaii’s IT Workforce Gap

Hawaii’s CIO is working toward continuous process improvement to bring the state government into the modern age.

by / March 24, 2016
Hawaii CIO Todd Nacapuy Courtesy State of Hawaii
In a new series, GovTech is looking for insights from IT decision-makers on the opportunities and issues facing their respective jurisdictions. Each week, our staff aims to catch up with a state or local government CIO to discuss trending topics, particular pain points and initiatives geared to improve public-sector IT. 
 
This week we talked with Hawaii CIO Todd Nacapuy, who was hired to lead the state's Office of Enterprise Technology Services (ETS) in 2015. Shortly after accepting the state’s top technology role, Nacapuy led the charge to consolidate the Office of Information Management and Technology and the Information and Communication Services Division into one entity, now called ETS.

What are some of the challenges facing Hawaii in the IT space? 
 
Two things that I think Hawaii is struggling with as far as the IT world goes is really an IT-skilled workforce. And that’s not just within the state, that’s within the commercial entities as well. We’re having a really hard time attracting skilled workers to come and live in Hawaii because the cost of living is so high here. We’re always No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation in terms of cost of living. Our largest commercial companies have between one and two thousand people. We just don’t have the salary ranges that can attract the high-end talent, so all of us struggle with that. 
 
Within the state, the IT workforce has continuously been reduced, so we don’t have a lot of IT workers. We support roughly 80,000 state employees in 65,000 seats — we have roughly 800 IT workers for them. Every department is undermanned as far as supporting any type of IT initiative within the departments and anything that goes statewide. It makes it very difficult.
 
Hawaii launched the 80/80 initiative fairly recently. Do you see that helping to fill the gaps in the state workforce?
 
There is a huge initiative and a huge push for that, but again, how do we get there? How do we train a workforce to get there when most companies have outsourced what we would call their "tier one" and "tier two" support? A lot of companies have outsourced their help desks because it just makes financial sense. If we don’t have that base to start training IT workers and move them through from a help desk position to assistant admin to assistant engineer to an architect, it’s really hard to for us to develop that. So this 80/80 initiative, yes we’re making strides in it, but we don’t have the infrastructure guides to do it because ... we just don’t have a career path for them.
 
On the [developer] side, it’s a little bit different. There are a lot of initiatives to grow a dev community. The High-Tech Development Corp., which is part of the state of Hawaii, is trying to help up develop that and get startups here, especially around energy. We have a huge initiative to be 100 percent renewable by 2050. There is a huge drive here to try to develop technology around energy and being self-sufficient. 
 
From where you sit, are tech initiatives recognized as a priority by state leadership and legislators? 
 
For the governor, IT is a recognized priority. He is very supportive of all of our initiatives and workforce development. He really understands that if we don’t start doing something to develop an IT workforce for the state of Hawaii, then we are going to continue to have failed IT projects. We’ve had multiple, large-scale projects fail in the past because we don’t have the skilled workers to do it. And it’s not that the state workforce can’t do it, it’s just that we don’t have enough of them. Everybody is trying to put fires out and do their day-to-day tasks, then you give them a large IT project like [enterprise resource planning] or payroll for the entire state. How do we do that? We just don’t have enough people.
 
Tell readers about some of the key initiatives underway in the state right now.
 
We just launched our payroll project — that is a huge initiative for the state of Hawaii to basically modernize our payroll system. We literally can’t do automatic deposits the way that it is done everywhere else. Every two weeks we have people punching in paychecks, and we actually have to print paystubs for everyone because there is not a system where they can access their paychecks online and those types of things. That [request for proposal] is out, and we hope to make a decision by early summer on the vendor and start the 18-month roll out. With that comes time and attendance, and shortly after that will be our financial system. 
 
How do you negotiate the needs of the state’s technology infrastructure and the funding resources available? How do you approach being an advocate for ETS when it comes to working with decision-makers? 
 
We have a lot of problems in the state. We have huge problems with affordable housing and affordable health care, again, all of it stemming from the high cost of living. We actually compete against some social initiatives that, to me, are always going to be and should be of higher priority than IT. It’s us lobbying the state legislators and making them understand, "Hey, look, there are some essential things that need to be taken care of as far as IT security." They have a tough decision that they have to make. There is all of the other asks and needs, improving our education systems versus spending money on IT. When you stack rank those things, IT may fall to the bottom, but it always depends on the legislator. It is an uphill battle for us. 

Where would you like to see the state in the next decade from a technology perspective?
 
For us, it’s really about continuous process improvement. When I look across the nation, CIOs are trying to do huge uplifts; they’re trying to cut and burn; they’re trying to do everything in large swoops. The state of Hawaii has tried that, and it’s not the way to go. We’re looking for continuous process improvement; we’re looking to make changes continuously and slowly bring the state of Hawaii into the modern age. If we try to do it one huge forklift, it’s not going to work.
 
If we can move the needle every year, that’s really the goal. So in 10 years, we really want to have a modern workforce, where people are very comfortable using things like Skype. We’ve launched a huge digital signature initiative to help us go paperless in the state, that’s another goal. In 10 years, hopefully we’ll have a paperless government, which will help us with efficiency.
Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.