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2018 Gubernatorial Elections Likely to Reshape State IT Efforts

A lot of statehouses will be changing hands after this year's elections, and with them will come a new wave of IT leaders.

by / January 22, 2018

There’s going to be a lot of state leadership changes after the 2018 elections. All told, 36 states and three U.S. territories will have gubernatorial elections in November. In 17 of those states and one of the territories, the current governor is term-limited or not seeking re-election, meaning new leadership is guaranteed.

A new governor can mean big changes for IT in a state government — both because different governors have different priorities and because they often bring in new IT leadership.

“State IT organizational structure really matters here,” writes Joseph Morris, vice president of research for e.Republic*. “If the CIO is appointed by the governor, they more often than not are replaced. They are seen as the previous governor’s person. Also, if there is a party change, you’ll be likely to see change here too. In states where the CIO reports to the department of administration or equivalent, and not the governor, their chances of staying on are greater.”

Whenever state IT leadership turns over, it’s likely that incoming replacements will bring with them new visions and priorities. According to Morris, this is a great time for IT vendors to establish a relationship.

“If I were an industry partner, I would be tracking the gubernatorial campaigns and messages and their views on technology,” he wrote. “Once they are in office, you’ll want to establish a relationship with the newly appointed CIO. How can you act as a trusted advisor? Can you advise the CIO of past performance in the jurisdiction? Areas of improvement? Can you help the new CIO get a quick win?”

The flip side of this change is that, when a state IT outfit is faced with a new governor and impending leadership changes, the ongoing work might be disrupted.

“Typically, as the election nears, we’ll begin to see personnel changes within the departments and agencies,” Morris wrote. “It may slow down larger or transformative procurements towards the end of 2018. As such, industry partners would do well to be also focusing on local government while continuing to drive demand within states.”

Consequently, some procurements might grind to a halt as IT workers await new leadership. While that’s happening, Morris said, some state departments will rely on existing contract vehicles to buy technology.

“As an industry partner, it is vital to ensure that you have your contract vehicles in place while these changes occur,” he wrote.

*Editor's note: e.Republic is the parent company of Government Technology.

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Ben Miller Associate Editor of GT Data and Business

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.

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