Accelerate Illinois’ Modernization, Day 7 — 6 Priorities Identified in the First 75 Days

If the President of the United States can transition into the office with 75 days between election and the oath of office, we should be able to move to the next milestone in that amount of time.

by Hardik Bhatt, CIO, Illinois / March 10, 2016

Editor's note: Day seven of Illinois' 30-day IT modernization blog was originally published on LinkedIn, and is republished here with permission.

You’d be thinking what is so special about “75 days.” Why am I not talking about my first 90 days or my first 100 days? While as a business leader, I was tuned to think in quarters, but Illinois does not have that kind of time. We need to move fast. Besides, if the President of the United States can transition into the office with 75 days between election and the oath of office, we should be able to move to the next milestone.

I have moved seamlessly between public and private sectors. This time, I was clearly tapped as a transformation agent, a CIO that can lead technology-infused transformation. My goal was to move quickly, establishing a sense of urgency while being open to key input. The state’s IT required a long-term transformational plan, and some immediate actions.

First step was to signal change. It was no longer going to be business as usual. Speed is the name of the game. I met with 25 key agency directors in my first 3 weeks to understand business priorities and technology issues, and build relationships with these key executives.

Based on listening to them, I identified a few key items to build positive momentum quickly. The bar was quite low. People said, “Wherever you shoot there will be success.” However, with limited resources, it was important to have clear prioritization of efforts. 

  1. State of Illinois did not have a unified ERP system (and it was 2015 already). We completed contract negotiations and a statewide ERP project started inside first 4 months. More on ERP on Friday…
  2. We identified some real low-hanging fruit and acted on them. More on that later in the week, too…
  3. My team renegotiated several large contracts saving millions of dollars for the taxpayer. More on that later in the week… (am I building suspense yet?)….
  4. We stopped 14 projects that did not have well-defined ROI.
  5. And I built a strong leadership team – from key internal members and from outside.
  6. And we focused on culture change: from individualistic to collaborative thinking, from silo’ed to enterprise focus and from tentativeness to firm decision-making.

Dividing the Journey

In addition to capturing low-hanging fruit, we also built a high-level executable strategy that includes key business principles like ROI, a business case, agile and 75-day milestones. It also divides the journey from 1974 (our oldest working system) through 2019 in three parallel steps.

To introduce myself and our high level strategy to the technology team at the state, I recorded and published this set of five short videos.