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CIOs Gather to Talk Leadership and Outsourcing at NASCIO, Day One

Agile development, cybersecurity and the cloud also make the agenda as the annual meeting kicks off in Orlando, Fla.

ORLANDO, Fla. — There was no shortage of attendees at the 2016 National Association of State CIO’s (NASCIO) Annual Conference, where more than 600 state technology leaders and private-sector partners are gathering from Sept. 18-21 to network and share strategies and solutions about leadership, agile development, procurement and a host of IT-related topics. 
Keynote speaker Robyn Benincasa took her experience as a world champion adventure racer and applied them to the life of a CIO. She recalled her diagnosis of osteoarthritis in both her hips back in 2008, and her doctor telling her that she would never run again. But after her first hip replacement surgery (she’s now had four), she embarked on training for a new adventure sport — endurance kayaking. And she’s been going strong ever since. “It’s not about the setback,” she said. “It’s about the comeback.” 
And the same can be said about IT leaders in the public sector. “We’ve got to do what it takes to win,” she said, adding that maintaining this approach works in the long run. Also important is for everyone on the team to suffer equally, which means everyone’s out there not just with each other, but for each other. “It’s about the culture that you create around you each day as a leader,” Benincasa said. “By getting together here at NASCIO, you’re going exponentially faster.” 

Survey Says 

Also on Sept. 19, NASCIO released its 2016 State CIO Survey, published jointly with Grant Thornton and CompTIA, which found that as data center consolidation progresses and outsourcing of IT applications and services expands, state CIOs are becoming brokers of technology services rather than providers of technology.  

IT Leadership Celebrated

In an awards ceremony at the conference Sunday evening, Center for Digital Government Executive Director Todd Sander announced the results of the 2016 Digital States Survey. The following states were recognized with Best Practice awards in specific categories: 
Adaptive Leadership 
Citizen Engagement 

Enterprise Information and Communications Technology


Finance and Administration

Health and Human Services 

Public Safety 


Most Improved 

In fact, two-thirds of states now outsource at least some IT infrastructure operations according to the survey, called The Adaptable State CIO, which also found that four out of five states currently outsource at least some IT applications and services — but almost one in five CIOs expect that some currently outsourced operations are likely to be brought back in-house. 
The survey also focused on agile and incremental software delivery. “What we’ve seen over the last year,” said Graeme Finley, managing director at Grant Thornton, “is a more formal structure, a much greater degree of formalized pilots, and a more formal effort to adopt [agile methodology] at the state level.”  
More specifically, widespread use of agile development has increased to 15 percent of respondents as compared to just 9 percent in 2015, according to the survey. According to an audience poll at the conference, however, 89 percent answered “yes” when it comes to interest in agile/incremental development. “People are making up their minds on agile,” Finley said. 
In Arizona, “one of the biggest places that agile has really taken hold is in the Legislature,” said CIO Morgan Reed. “[But] I’m not going to let my mainframe guys use agile for devops. Those mistakes can end up on the front page.” 
In Maryland, CIO David Garcia said that especially when talking agile, “We in Maryland need to get out of our nine-month to 12-month procurement process. Technology is changing too fast.”  
Also of note from the survey, Finley said, is an interesting split with reporting responsibilities. “Twice as many CDOs report to the CIO versus anybody else in the organization,” he said. 

Let’s Talk Priorities 

CIOs today have similar priorities, and a few took to the NASCIO stage to discuss some of the most prevalent: cybersecurity, cloud, business intelligence and data analytics, legacy modernization, and budget and cost control.

In Virginia, Chief Information Security Officer Michael Watson talked about the need to fill the gap that exists between cyber-risk and technology, mentioning a few incidents — pacemakers, defibrillators and other medical devices manufactured by St. Jude Medical being prone to cyberattack and the well-known Office of Personnel Management data breach in 2015. 

"We need to understand that we’re putting these services out there and we need to put safeguards in place," he said, "and they need to be part of our budget. When we provide any type of tech service, we need to build security into the service and the cost of the service."

As for cloud, Texas CIO Todd Kimbriel noted that the technology is here. "It's not going anywhere," he said, but also pointed out that despite many people talking about and utilizing cloud computing, they aren't necessarily referencing it correctly.

So what is cloud? It’s delivery not technology. It’s operational expense not capital. Ultimately, he said, "people lump all aspects of cloud into the cloud. They say, ‘I need cloud!' No, you need cloud services."

Indiana CIO Dewand Neely talked business intelligence and data analytics, and advised his fellow CIOs to pick a data-driven project that has strong support from the top. In his state, infant mortality, opioid abuse/overdose and recidivism have all been key issues that had buy-in from various stakeholders, helping to ensure project success.

Once achieving that support and buy-in, however, Neely noted that the collaboration isn't over. "Don’t do all this and then go off on your own completely and take all the credit," he said. "Make sure everyone plays part in the process."

As for legacy modernization, Mahesh Nattanmai, executive deputy CIO at the New York State Office of Information Technology Services, said he pulled together a team that included a cross section of business and technology people with a goal of developing an IT strategy and roadmap.

"We had to come up with something bold that would span administrations," he said. "What’s been the key to our success was to focus on the basics of people, process and technology. Get the right leadership team, implement some IT processes to [make sense of] the madness."

With the leadership of CIO Maggie Miller and New York's IT team, Nattanmai said the state has closed 28 data centers, switched over to VoIP, refaced all websites and is in the process of consolidating all of the state's call centers.

And when it comes to budget and cost control, Montana CIO Ron Baldwin summoned his inner Jedi to impart financial wisdom upon his peers.

Ron Baldwin of the Galaxy Montana using the force to battle the empire of rising costs and budget #NASCIO16 — Joshua Verville (@joshuaverville) September 19, 2016

Noelle Knell has been the editor of Government Technology magazine for e.Republic since 2015. She has more than two decades of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she 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. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.