North Carolina's New CIO Outlines Top 3 Short-Term Priorities

Eric Boyette, a long-time public servant who was appointed as North Carolina's CIO on April 7, has solid plans to bolster the state's data resources and cooperative efforts.

by / May 23, 2017
A George Washington statue inside the North Carolina State Capitol. David Kidd/Government Technology

Nearly seven weeks into leading IT for the state of North Carolina, CIO Eric Boyette, who also serves as director of the state’s Department of Information Technology (DIT), says he is excited to increase the agency’s number and scope of partnerships.

Boyette has spent most of his career in public service, and replaces former state CIO Keith Werner, who stepped aside in late January following the transition of power between former Gov. Pat McCrory and current Gov. Roy Cooper.

The newly minted spoke with Government Technology about the transition since his April 7 appointment and outlined some of his main priorities. While looking at some “common-sense governance” strategies he’d like to pursue in the short term, he will also be keeping an eye on future opportunities.

1. Cybersecurity

Coming on the heels of the WannaCry cyberattack that infected hundreds of thousands of computers around the world with ransomware, cybersecurity has been at the forefront of IT leaders' minds throughout the country.

The rapid response that North Carolina’s cyberteam demonstrated when the malware began appearing added to Boyette’s pride in the team. “They jumped immediately on Friday, when the first glimpse of this came out,” said Boyette, pictured below. “They were ahead of the game. … I was very proud of our cybergroup and our cyber-risk office.”

Protecting the state data and ensuring citizens are protected when they interact with the state is crucial to serving the interests of North Carolina’s residents. And while some states are taking a more centralized and consolidated strategy, Boyette does not believe that is necessary to ensure safety of state networks and systems.

“I don’t think we have to be a consolidated state to provide that consolidated effort for cybersecurity. It’s all about the management and the view from the top into the agencies,” he said, suggesting strong leadership and interagency relationships as an alternate means of alerting appropriate teams whenever a breach is detected.

2. Procurement

The tropes of government being behind the technology curve is often overstated. However, one area where most public IT workers can agree it is applicable is in regard to modernizing procurement systems. Boyette and the rest of the DIT are no exception.

Along with pursuing the aforementioned “common-sense government,” the DIT team is working to provide as many resources to state agencies as possible without general statute or General Assembly approval.

Boyette is going to focus on what he and the rest of the team can do today to help the agencies and the vendors. "What can we do to speed up the process and make our procurement a lot easier?” One thing he has already done is started to form partnerships in order to expedite the process. “I have reached out to office of budget management our director there and our department of administration [to see what can be done],” he explained

3. Innovation

One common vein throughout his CIO tenure will be a focus on partnerships. While it is not novel to assume that better solutions come from a team consortium rather than a single entity, Boyette sees teamwork as an untapped potential for the state to achieve better overall outcomes.

“I fully believe in partnerships because the more expertise we have around the table, the better off the state will be,” he said. Boyette, who most recently served as the head of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, brings an inside look at how the DIT should assist state agencies with the technological gaps they face.

The state launched the Innovation Center (iCenter) in 2013 with a goal of interacting with government as simple and efficient as possible. The center has more recently started a ‘try before you buy’ lab, meant to make government more customer-friendly.

Boyette sees the potential for the iCenter's role to increase. “We want to increase our partnership not only with vendor community and our agencies, but we want to increase partnerships with our universities.”

Along with the iCenter, North Carolina is also home to the Government Data Analytics Center (GDAC), which leverages all available data to maximize efficiency and improve service delivery. The CIO also explained how the GDAC recently was funded through the state legislature — an action which serves as a testament to the hard work they do, he said.

Innovation, however, will not be siloed within those separate entities. Through increased partnerships and outreach, Boyette said he looks forward to learning from all state departments. “We look forward to collaborating with and learning from all of our agencies … they can sometimes create things that are a little more nimble and agile.”

For now, Boyette will continue building upon the state's data environment, so agencies will be able to share data elements between one another. At the end of the day, a lot of the problems the state is trying to fix are just too large for any one state agency to tackle. But through effective delegation and partnerships, the CIO said DIT is committed to providing the best service it can.

Ryan McCauley Former Staff Writer

Ryan McCauley was a staff writer for Government Technology magazine from October 2016 through July 2017, and previously served as the publication's editorial assistant.