NASCIO kicked off its 2013 annual conference Monday, Oct. 14, in Philadelphia with what was reported to be record attendance. The organization expects 600 people to show up for the four-day conference, including representatives from all 50 states (and about 43 actual state CIOs, by our count).

The day one discussion leaned heavily toward innovation, which rapidly is becoming a buzzword among CIOs and their bosses. But some of the best presentations on the topic didn’t come from states. Boston CIO Bill Oates and Philadelphia CIO Adel Ebeid talked insightfully about how their cities use new approaches to solve real community problems and how their IT organizations balance innovation and basic blocking and tackling. 

“You won’t have credibility in innovation if you can’t reliably run core services,” Oates said. “And credibility leads to funding conversations that let you build the projects you want.”

Here’s a look at highlights from day one:

STRUGGLING WITH INNOVATION — One of the first sessions on NASCIO’s opening day focused on “mastering innovation” — and states could use the help. An audience poll asked how much time attendees spend being innovative. Fifty percent said they spend less than a quarter of their time doing innovative things. And almost 30 percent spend less than 5 percent of their time on such activities.

OUTNUMBERED — State CIOs could be excused for feeling a bit like fish in a barrel as they strolled the Philadelphia Marriott. As usual, vendors far outnumbered state officials at the annual event. By our count there were almost 370 corporate members registered for the conference, that’s almost nine vendor reps for each of the 43 state CIOs attending the event.

ALL ABOUT CHANGE — Today government IT agencies focus on specific tools of change — the cloud, mobility, analytics — but in the future they’re likely to focus more on change itself. “Five years from now, we’ll be much more concerned with creating the structure for change management,” Maryland Chief Innovation Officer Michael Powell told attendees. “The innovation world will be about the process of change.”

CIOs RETURN TO INFORMATION — As governments collect growing amounts of data, the role of the CIO will return to literally focusing on information. The drive toward big data coupled with the rise of the Internet of Things will put government in the position of having more data than ever, causing CIOs to get back to the roots of their job title. And that may lead to more role-specific jobs, some of which are already popping up in government like data and privacy officers.

PHILLY TAKES INNOVATION TO THE STREETS — The City of Brotherly Love is working to spur innovation outside of brick-and-mortar government. Philadelphia is preparing to open an innovation lab in a couple of months that will bring city employees to work with nonprofit organizations and startups. In addition, Ebeid said he’s working to create an innovation academy that will bring people together, including nontechnologists, to learn about the principles of innovation, innovation management, ideation and getting ideas to successful completion. “We will give them real problems to try to resolve,” he said.

THE MORE THE MERRIER? — Is there a need for a chief innovation officer separate from the chief information officer? NASCIO attendees were completely split on the answer: 33 percent said yes, 30 percent said no, and the remaining 37 percent were unsure. However, it was made clear that innovation isn’t going away. In another survey, 80 percent of attendees said innovation is a necessary skill set for technology leaders to possess.

SAY CHEESE — Government Technology gathered all state CIOs attending the conference for a group photo (see above). Check out the professional photographer’s version in the December issue of the magazine.

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.

Elaine Pittman  |  Associate Editor

Elaine Pittman is the associate editor for Government Technology, Public CIO and Emergency Management. Before coming to Government Technology, she worked for The Coloradoan daily newspaper in Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached via email and @elainerpittman on Twitter.