Jerry Fralick was named North Carolina CIO in September 2009. Prior to that, he served as CIO for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs and as director of the Office of Information Services and deputy CIO at the Administration for Children and Families. Recognized for leading many successful federal programs, Fralick hopes to find similar success in state government. Government Technology spoke with Fralick in May at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Midyear Conference in Washington, D.C.
Having recently completed a state assessment of IT infrastructure, what’s your top priority?
When I came on board, Gov. Bev Perdue said, “Jerry, there are three things I want you to focus on: reducing IT expenditures, continuing consolidation and using centers of excellence or best practices.” That’s my context for formulating the direction that I want to take state IT.
How do you walk the line of trying to set an expectation that technology is going to save money, but it’s not all about savings?
You have to manage expectations. You have to say, “Mr. Vendor, tell me exactly what you are going to provide. What is the dollar value in savings and can you guarantee it?” Most of them will say they can’t and some will say they’ll get close, but don’t want to be penalized for not hitting the target. It’s managing the vendor and the political folks who want immediate cost savings. In IT, it takes 18 to 24 months to understand the lay of the land. You can’t implement change overnight.
What’s one thing you’d change about how government works?
I’d push for federal-state collaboration. Federal officials are often at a different altitude and think they’re helping when they’re creating problems — especially through the grant process. I went to one of the e.Republic conferences with local city and county governments, and I think I was one of four state CIOs there. I learned it’s at the local levels that the money is being spent and governments are interacting with citizens. At the federal level, we’re setting policy and direction. We’ve created more problems and are pushing them down to the states without understanding the complexity of what states deal with.
Is there anything to be learned from the Amazon cloud outage as government looks at cloud solutions?
It’s an issue of policy. You have to have a backup. In the Amazon situation, it’s about putting procedures and policies in place in case something like that happens.