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Do You Think Like a State CIO?

Results of the NASCIO 2014 State CIO Survey show a fast-moving IT landscape, a lot of big IT projects, and leaders who are doing their best to keep up.

A new survey from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), released Sept. 30, shows that among IT leaders in state government, there's a degree of unity when it comes to planning and overseeing critical projects and what type of sourcing models organizations use -- two of three main focus areas of Charting the Course: Leading Collaboration During Uncertain Times. When it came to the third focus area -- using data as a strategic asset -- IT leaders weren't necessarily on the same page.

The technological landscape is becoming more diverse, and with that comes more challenges than ever before in coordinating activities, according to the report, which also found that half of the states surveyed are managing at least five projects they consider to be large or critical to their organization. Nearly 75 percent of states surveyed reported overseeing projects with budgets exceeding $100 million. And in several states, large and critical IT projects accounted for more than 90 percent of total project spending. 

About two-thirds of CIOs reported engaging in either a formal oversight and control model, a formal leadership role, or an active advisory role where the state’s large projects were concerned.

More than one-third of respondents said their state’s recent large IT projects had been generally successful. To improve success rates, CIOs emphasized the need for strong procurement and vendor management practices, as well as a move toward incremental project implementation.

The survey asked respondents, “What factors had the greatest impact on the level of success for these projects?” More than 64 percent of respondents cited “executive sponsorship” as a response, followed by “effectiveness of governance and decision-making” (58.3 percent) and “effectiveness of project management” (58.3 percent).

Sourcing Methodology

CIOs generally responded that they were open to exploring new and unconventional sourcing methods, as many of the barriers that once existed are no longer present. IT outsourcing grew from 42 percent adoption in 2010 ago to 81 percent in 2014. CIOs also accounted for the changing IT landscape and varied challenges as fueling the need to peruse new service delivery models.

CIOs are increasingly brokers of services, the report states. “We should be in the business of providing IT services, not in the infrastructure business,” one CIO responded. Another said, “I am a firm believer that in five to seven years from now, the states will be out of the infrastructure business – we will become brokers for services, rather than owning them.”

Respondents also were asked, “What impact would this new managed services model have on your organization and staff?” The leading answer, cited by 54.1 percent of respondents, was that staff have these skills now, followed by staff are developing or have a program to recruit new talent at 32.4 percent, and then by “staff do not have these skills” at 29.7 percent.

Doing Data Differently

The survey showed that states differ greatly in their data management capabilities and approaches. Fifty-four percent of CIOs reported within their organizations an increasing level of discipline around management of state assets. An additional 10 percent reported that their organizations have formal data governance structures, roles and responsibilities, and tools. About 48 percent of states reported that their states had operational data portals.

CIOs reported a wide range of answers to the question, “What is the appropriate role of the state CIO organization in enterprise data management?” as seen below:


The primary impediment to furthering organizational information sharing via data portals was an institutional unwillingness to publish data. About 68 percent of states characterized their organizations as “fairly protective and risk adverse” with regard to the adoption of information sharing. About 36 percent reported they were “beginning to make headway, agencies are seeing the value.”

Big data efforts are immature in most states, the report found. More than 63 percent of respondents reported their states are either considering big data investments or are in a pre-evaluation phase, having done no actual work in big data.


The report, which can be downloaded for free, concludes with one of the most popular words in government IT today: innovation.

“In the absence of extra resources and facing challenges in staff retention and training, innovation continues to be an important weapon in the CIO arsenal,” the report states. “We asked CIOs whether innovation was expected of them. Over two-thirds of CIOs stated that innovation was a critical part of their role. This reinforces a consistent message we have received from CIOs over the past several years – new ideas and new approaches are critical to adapting to changing circumstances and to charting the course of state IT in uncertain times.”

Colin wrote for Government Technology and Emergency Management from 2010 through most of 2016.