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CIOs: Striking the Balance Between Legacy and Modern

Chief information officers must walk the tightrope between their agency’s older systems and newer ones. If balance isn’t achieved, it can mean trouble.

(TNS) — Driving tech innovation in state government while keeping legacy systems operating through the transition is a tightrope, and that balancing act can be particularly vexing for CIOs. 
Barney Gomez, CIO of the sprawling Department of Health Care Services, led a panel discussion Tuesday with James Duckens, project director for the California Healthcare Eligibility, Enrollment and Retention System (CALHEERS); Brian Wong, CIO and deputy director of the state Department of Social Services; and, from the private sector, former state employee Ryan Wold, now senior project manager and software engineer for Pivotal Labs. 
The panel was part of the California CIO Academy, an annual event hosted by Government Technology.
Duckens, who has 30 years experience in state service, stressed communication as the key to a successful transition from legacy systems to modern tools. To that end, he’s testified before the state Legislature “about how we’re spending the money.” His department, he said, is using agile development whenever possible and focusing on “user-centered design.” 
Wong, who’s been a CIO for just six months, said it’s essential to “get buy-in” from the business side of a state department as the tech side continues to push innovation. “The trick is getting business to own a product.”
Wold’s perspective, coming from the private sector, echoed Wong’s point: “You have to align the tech and ownership sides.” He said it’s important to “look for small wins” as a means of maintaining momentum and stoking internal support.
Wong said it’s important for a CIO or project leader to “know what your organization is ready for.” Apart from the tech side, that includes an acknowledgement of the importance of “change management.”
On the tech side, Wold noted recent trends toward “codeless” programming and “smaller software,” which he called “policy math.” Part of that trend is “extreme programming,” which he described as a form of agile development with iterative testing and quality assurance “baked in from the start.” 
He described extreme programming thusly: “Rather than boiling the ocean, we take a little cup at a time and boil it.”
Gomez described the CIOs’ challenge as “balancing the trends between legacy and modernization.” 

This story was originally published by Techwire
Dennis Noone is the managing editor of Techwire.
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