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Human-Centered Design Lies at the Heart of Vermont IT

At the NASCIO Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Vermont CIO Denise Reilly-Hughes explained how putting users at the center of tech projects results in better outcomes for both residents and state employees.

Vermont CIO Denise Reilly-Hughes
Denise Reilly-Hughes
Government Technology/David Kidd
MINNEAPOLIS — Building digital government services that are intuitive, accessible and designed to solve people’s real problems was a popular topic at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Annual conference in Minneapolis Monday.

Vermont CIO Denise Reilly-Hughes said that at the state’s Agency of Digital Services, user-centered design is at the core of conversations she has with departments as they develop projects for use both internally and externally.

It’s become a central part of her approach to leading state IT, and one that she brought with her when she first came to state service.

“I realized that technology is by far the area that drives me the most,” Reilly-Hughes told Government Technology in July, “but not technology in and of itself — it’s how it improves the lives of others.”

And while CIOs often talk about user-centered design as it relates to citizen services and how residents interact with the state — major projects like single sign-on portals, for example — Reilly-Hughes said it also applies to Vermont’s hybrid workforce. If state employees can work remotely and achieve work-life balance, their needs are being put at the center of policymaking.

As Colorado’s Deputy Executive Director Julia Richman put it, “make government easy” is a big part of every digital government strategy.

“For generations, government has been very paternalistic,” Richman said. “‘Here’s the problem that you have and here’s how I’m going to solve it,’ rather than saying, ‘What is the problem you have and how might I solve it?'"
Lauren Kinkade is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.
Noelle Knell is the executive editor for e.Republic, responsible for setting the overall direction for e.Republic’s editorial platforms, including <i>Government Technology</i>, <i>Governing</i>, <i>Industry Insider, Emergency Management</i> and the Center for Digital Education. She has been with e.Republic since 2011, and has decades of writing, editing and leadership experience. A California native, Noelle has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history.