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NASCIO Day One: Collisions Breed Collaboration

In afternoon sessions at the first full day of the annual conference, state leaders shared progress on major workforce, shared services and digital transformation initiatives.

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Georgia CIO Calvin Rhodes

Georgia's Fast-Track to Cyber

This year Georgia took a big step forward in cybersecurity with the development and construction of its cyber center and training range, moving from proposal to ribbon-cutting on an aggressive 18-month timeline.

Funded entirely with state cash on hand, the $100 million Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center brings together universities and technical colleges, private-sector businesses, and law enforcement, as well as the Army Cyber Command, a strategic group within the military branch that was consolidated at the center in Augusta.

State CIO Calvin Rhodes described the motivations behind creating the cyber center, as well as the far-reaching impact it will have on state security. He laid out five program areas, including research and development, training and education, and innovation and incubation. One of the main drivers for private-sector partners to get involved, Rhodes said, comes from ready access to the center’s student population. Already, 500 students from local schools are taking courses at the training center, and the state anticipates that number to grow dramatically.

Collaboration among the different groups at Georgia’s cyber center is key to its mission. “We’re going to force collisions,” Rhodes said, explaining that by bringing together partners who may not otherwise have met, the parties are more likely to realize greater outcomes.

Agencies of all levels across the state are welcome to access the resources at the cyber center, which will make Georgia more secure overall. And Rhodes added that the new Cyber Crime Unit created as part of the center’s development will give small jurisdictions with limited resources tools to improve their strategies.

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Ed Toner


Nebraska CIO Ed Toner

State as a Service 

Collaboration was the theme that ran through the afternoon session featuring Nebraska Chief Information Officer Ed Toner and Ohio Deputy Director of Enterprise Shared Solutions Deven Mehta. More specifically, each described instances where the state took the lead on projects where a shared system or asset benefited both parties. 

In Nebraska, Toner described a call the state received from a county with a server that had been out of service for three days. The state had them up and running on their virtual server in four hours, paying 10 percent of what they were paying for their on-premise server. In fact, Nebraska is well on its way to full migration of all of the state’s 93 counties’ servers to the state system. So far, more than 70 counties share state infrastructure, saving them a significant amount of money, according to Toner. “We’re going to get them all sooner or later,” he said. What helps get the word out is Toner’s blog, where he writes about many of the successes they’ve enjoyed. 

Toner went on to give several other examples of money-saving shared-services projects, like a shared permit system with the cities of Lincoln and Omaha, and Network Nebraska, a shared telecom backbone that serves nearly 300 public agencies. 

Mehta described Ohio’s massive IT transformation that began in 2012, aimed at reducing complexity, as becoming more efficient and saving money. From the outset, the vision for the undertaking included finding ways for local governments to participate in and benefit from the state’s modernization efforts.

Among the examples Mehta offered of putting this idea into practice was the state’s data warehouse in central Ohio. Cuyahoga County now houses its data there, which saved them $12 million upfront, as well as $1 million in annual operational expenses. Similarly, the Ohio One Network is made up of 2,250 miles of 100 GB connectivity, which connects more than 750 state and county buildings and sites across the state.

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Delaware CIO and incoming NASCIO President James Collins

Developing Effective Leaders

In a breakout session on leadership development, Colorado’s HR leaders described how in the last year and a half they’ve transformed the way IT handles training and development, a model they think could work for other states.

In the Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology, Chief People Officer Ramona Gomoll and Barb Davis, senior strategic HR business partner, found that when they got to the state that employees in leadership roles didn’t understand their authority levels. A lack of training around how to effectively manage and supervise employees meant work wasn’t always being done effectively, and there were no processes in place for mediating a staffing situation that wasn’t working.

And just because someone is good with tech does not mean they have the innate skills to be good leaders. They may know how to make data centers more effective or develop apps, but they don’t know how to continue to grow the knowledge of their workforce.

“We’re moving forward in technology and not necessarily … [planning] how to migrate our workforce,” said Delaware CIO James Collins from the audience.

In Colorado, Gomoll and Davis said they overhauled the state's vision for leadership, using a “multifaceted approach” that involved an emotional intelligence assessment for managers. They found that many lacked the appropriate skills around relationships and communication. As a result, they instituted training for managers, and emphasized working strategically with human resources, being sure to set the culture of performance management. That included face-to-face time with employees, and therefore a reduction in “email management,” and concrete processes for discipline.

Colorado IT supervisors, Gomoll and Davis said, now feel empowered to manage their employees, and although the culture shift around this new performance management strategy was not without challenges, their IT team is stronger for it.

“If you go down that path, stick with it,” Gomoll said. “It’s going to take time.”

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Todd Nacapuy, CIO, Hawaii


Hawaii CIO Todd Nacapuy

The Road to E-signatures

This digital signatures element of Hawaii’s IT modernization journey has its roots in CIO Todd Nacapuy’s first day on the job. As part of the state’s onboarding process, new hires used to spend two hours on their first day signing physical documents. This didn’t sit well with Nacapuy or Gov. David Ige, who pursued e-signature technology to expedite this process along with many others throughout the state. 

An average document working its way through state offices would take 30 days and about 13 steps to reach the governor for his physical signature. With the e-signature solution in place, that process now takes about a week — two days of that representing the time it takes to route through every necessary department for their digital signature. Since the tool first became available to the state about three years ago, more than 400,000 transactions have been completed. 

Touting the added security the digital solution offers, as well as the knowledge of where a document is at any point in the process, Hawaii’s governor has made it known that he “gives preference to documents sent to him digitally,” Nacapuy said. “One of the biggest keys was the top-down approach.”

Another lesson the CIO passed on to session attendees was to be mindful of how the process change is communicated to employees — not just the nuts and bolts of the change, but also the “why” behind the transition that encourages staff to buy in to a new way of doing things. Nacapuy classifies the IT workforce in the state based on the technology that was broadly used when they started working there: mainframe, PC, laptop and mobile. “You can’t communicate to all employees in the same way,” he explained, specifying that more physical documentation is required for employees who onboarded in the mainframe era, for example. “We communicate to four generations of workers and we do it very differently,” he said.

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.