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New Jersey’s New IT Plan Is Heavy on ‘Commonality’ and Cloud

The 2023-2025 strategy aims to break down data and identity management silos across agencies, transition from a legacy on-prem mainframe to cloud services and create more consistent user experiences.

Closeup of a person fitting a puzzle piece into place.
New Jersey wants to have a more uniform digital presence and modernized, cloud services by 2025.

The state’s new 2023-2025 IT Business & Technology Strategic Plan aims to modernize older systems, including shifting functions off the on-prem mainframe and over to cloud solutions. It also calls for agencies to adopt common platforms for activities like identity management and data sharing and follow common website design approaches that can bring cohesion to government’s digital presence.

The IT plan, in part, tackles issues stemming from pandemic response, when the state hurried to launch digital services to meet new needs and did not prioritize a common user experience, the report states.

Now that the situation has calmed, New Jersey looks to pull its digital services into alignment. Newly acquired or upgraded systems should adopt a common “look-and-feel,” per the plan, and the state is promoting shared identity and access management (IAM) systems.

The strategy also takes aim at trends that emerged well before the pandemic: the executive branch has seen a disparate array of applications crop up across its agencies over the years, and many of these solutions are now aging, state Chief Technology Officer Chris Rein told Government Technology.

“Over time, these agencies have had varying degrees of autonomy as they’ve established applications [that are], in many cases, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20 years [old], and sometimes older,” Rein said. “So, it’s natural that there’s going to be a heterogeneous collection of different siloed identity management systems.”


There may not be a single IAM platform that can meet the needs of all the state’s entities, but just trimming down on divergent systems is helpful, Rein said: “Two platforms is better than 17 platforms.”

Reducing platforms means a simpler, less confusing sign-on experience for users, and the state is “underway with planning and establishing identity management guidelines, platforms, and services that will have security, privacy, and as much operational consistency as practical,” per the report.

As New Jersey considers the transition process, Rein said that finding common IAM platforms to suit 50,000-60,000 state employees tackles a very different kind of use case than finding platforms that suit all 9 million residents’ varying digital services needs.

Legacy software also presents a challenge: large older systems typically weren’t designed in ways that easily allow for updating just their identity capabilities, to work with a new IAM platform, whereas more modern software that’s already cloud-based can more readily integrate.

“Large applications decades ago were not written as modular and as cleanly separatable as more modern ones are,” Rein said. “However, some of the agencies that are a little smaller perhaps have a little bit more of a modern fabric with their systems — server-based, cloud-based and so forth — [and] that becomes a little bit easier to kind of unplug and plug into common [platforms.]”

The state is moving away from an on-prem mainframe to a mainframe-as-a-service (MFaaS) approach.

MFaaS is expected to make spending more predictable, enabling the state to budget for recurring subscription costs, rather than occasionally facing an ask for $8 million to $15 million for a new on-prem mainframe, Rein said. New Jersey executive agencies are also seeing financial benefits: the state’s IT follows a charge-back cost recovery model and client agencies are finding lower bills as they switch to MFaaS.

Emergency preparedness is another motive. Moving mainframe off-prem also keeps it safer should a disaster impact on-site equipment.

“In this position, one has to think of resiliency above almost anything else,” Rein said. “That could be cyber [resiliency], that’s platform, that’s financial and skill set resiliency.”

Employees who maintain and secure the mainframe are retiring and the state is worried about replacements. “It’s harder and harder” to find existing employees interested in learning those skills or new recruits with that skill set, Rein said. Identifying a reliable vendor to handle upkeep of the mainframe system lets the state sidestep that concern.

New Jersey isn’t the only one going this route, with New York also looking to MFaaS. A July 2022 mainframe outage in West Virginia highlighted the importance of mainframe resiliency.


The IT plan calls for more data sharing among and within agencies, where silos have often emerged. AI and machine learning then can be used to extract deeper meaning from the resulting data lakes. The Department of Health is among those that has been working to improve data sharing among its divisions.

“They have built, and are in the process of building and expanding, a set of data lakes so they can make decisions based not just on the surface-level data and statistics, but rather, what’s the story being told behind the initial,” Rein said.

Of course, such efforts also need to be accompanied by data governance policies to help keep data private and secure.

“We should only collect the data that we need. We should only store it as long as we need to. And yet, while we have that data, let’s make sure we’re using that data in the most effective way to deliver these services,” Rein said.

The state is considering whether it needs to update its data governance policies, he said.


Today, New Jersey’s state websites vary widely in navigation and appearance, creating an inconsistent resident experience that the state aims to correct with web presence guidelines, Rein said. But it will take time and multiple projects to bring full cohesion, he said.

“You look at — we picked, nationally, 10 or 12 different state websites … no two of those sites looked the same. Many of them looked radically different in terms of branding … the look and feel, the operation,” Rein said.

User experience also ought to become consistent across mobile and web platforms, according to the plan, and New Jersey is further seeking commonality across applications. When IT receives new application requests, it will review to see whether existing solutions — and skill sets — can be made to meet the need and where new procurements can serve several agencies at once, Rein said.
Jule Pattison-Gordon is a senior staff writer for Government Technology. She previously wrote for PYMNTS and The Bay State Banner, and holds a B.A. in creative writing from Carnegie Mellon. She’s based outside Boston.