If you had a chance to speak to some of the nation’s largest IT vendors and systems integrators, what would you tell them? That was an opportunity given to a panel of 10 state and local CIOs last month at the Center for Digital Government’s annual Industry Summit.

The meeting, held this year in Jackson, Wyo., is designed to help vendors understand CIO priorities and foster better collaboration between the public and private sectors. As you might expect, the public-sector panelists had plenty of suggestions for representatives of more than 30 companies in attendance.

Boston CIO Bill Oates urged vendors to share information about what their most successful customers are doing. “You guys are talking to everybody — I want to hear what other people are doing,” he said. “Don’t sell me product. Tell me about solutions you’ve implemented in other places, and then take the time to tell me how that solution might work for me.”

Colorado CIO Kristin Russell urged companies to invest in government-specific solutions. “I would love it if vendors would build [commercial off-the-shelf] solutions for government,” she said. “That’s what we need. We need products that are actually developed for government.”

And Texas CIO Karen Robinson simply asked that industry reps come to her office prepared. “We have a technology plan. Read it,” she said.

In addition, most of the CIOs were adamant that use of shared systems and collaborative projects will grow in the government space. And they were optimistic that industry would support those efforts, instead of seeing them as a threat to profits. Michigan CIO David Behen noted that his state has agreed to share its Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) with Illinois. He said states can’t continue to separately develop major systems like these — it’s simply unsustainable. “MMIS systems are $150 million per state. That’s crazy,” he said. “I think industry is coming to grips with that.”

Finally, both Behen and Pennsylvania CIO Tony Encinias challenged vendors to help reform government procurement processes, which remain too cumbersome and unfriendly to innovation. “Use your lobbyists to influence changes in procurement law,” Encinias told Industry Summit attendees. “We moved IT purchasing to my office from the Department of General Services, which helped some. But it is still very difficult.”

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Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  |  Editor

Steve Towns is editor of Government Technology, and executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government Technology,Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market.