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Nebraska CIO Talks Change Management, Consolidation and Cloud

Nebraska CIO Ed Toner explained how the state’s ongoing cloud migration project is addressing agency change hesitancy, streamlining IT processes and securely centralizing data management.

Ed Toner_Nebraska
Nebraska CIO Ed Toner recently shared how the state is dismantling barriers to change and data management by unifying IT efforts within its borders.

When Toner was appointed as CIO in June 2015, he brought with him unique IT expertise from the private sector — having served as IT director of global infrastructure operations at First Data Corporation for several years. After stepping into his duties as the top technology leader in Nebraska, an apprehension to change and a spirit of complacency became evident. This prompted Toner to conduct an in-depth analysis of departmental practices, aiming to identify and address gaps. The goal was to establish a more consolidated and interconnected approach to Nebraska's IT services and to discover how that might consequently enhance change management efforts moving forward.

“We had to review and streamline all of our processes initially because there were too many unnecessary handoffs,” Toner shared with Government Technology. “We had to remove any tasks that were no longer adding value.”

With process enhancements and consolidations undoubtedly comes change. Toner expanded on the importance of individuals within an agency being open to innovation and shifts in procedure in a recent blog article, writing, “Everyone in an agency must be encouraged to exhibit change leadership by asking, ‘Why do we do it this way, and what problem are we trying to solve?’”

These are the two questions Toner asked himself as he set out to implement one critical change — the concept of connecting various state IT data and services into a unified cloud tool, with each agency being required to collaborate with the state CIO’s office to gain access. Toner's department instituted a Cloud Review Board tasked with governing, reviewing policies, standardizing and maintaining the various cloud services utilized by state agencies.

The creation of the board as part of the ongoing cloud migration project is a significant step toward leveraging centralized access and policies to drive change management.

“Agencies can often see themselves as their own separate companies and that model doesn't work when there's 20 different agencies,” Toner said. “You’d build a lot of inefficiencies if you had 20 agencies doing that, resulting in 20 different IT groups for each. That’s a lot of waste, overlap and redundancy of applications.”

Various state systems have already undergone migration to the cloud, with electronic time-and-attendance and enterprise content management software slated to be the next in line for migration, according to Toner.

“The Cloud Board reviews every request from an agency if they would like data to be added to the cloud to discover if it is secure, if the data that you want to put into the cloud meets security protocols, and most importantly, if it is the appropriate place for that data,” Toner explained.

The migration has also been a win for security efforts since the IT department can directly communicate with cloud providers through an express route with Microsoft or directly with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Toner noted that this enables their two Nebraska data centers to communicate with each other, while also having the capability to communicate easily and securely with the data centers at AWS and at Microsoft Azure directly.

Through the migration project, Toner has introduced a new method to achieve multiple goals simultaneously. These include ensuring changes are accepted and implemented effectively, consolidating data from various platforms in one central location, and assembling a collaborative board to ensure the effective enforcement of IT policies and adherence to security protocols across the state related to the cloud.

"To be effective in change leadership, you must be willing to map the direction, designate the stages to success and find ways to convince and motivate others to embrace the change,” Toner noted in his blog.
Ashley Silver is a staff writer for Government Technology. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Montevallo and a graduate degree in public relations from Kent State University. Silver is also a published author with a wide range of experience in editing, communications and public relations.