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Security, Cloud Top State CIO Priorities in 2016

The latest NASCIO annual state CIO priorities survey outlines where state officials are looking when it comes to IT for the coming year.

Security, cloud services and systems consolidation took the top three spots in the annual National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) survey of state CIOs’ key priorities for the coming year.

According to NASCIO officials, the yearly nationwide survey didn’t offer any major surprises, but it did highlight some of the larger trends and concerns for technology leaders in the public sector.

Darryl Ackley, NASCIO president and CIO of New Mexico, told Government Technology that the outcomes of the State CIO Priorities for 2016 survey followed fairly closely with industry trends and the common issues facing government IT professionals.

“For a few things, [the results were] just kind of consistent,” he said. “It’s the third year in a row that security has been the top priority and it has been in the top 10 since 2006. Security continues to be a chief concern, and consolidation and optimization also tend to stick around on that list.” 

The prominence of CIOs’ security-mindedness speaks to the overall responsibilities of the top state technology spot, said Ackley. In addition to having to consider the protection of state data systems and the data of their constituents, Ackley said CIOs are often ultimately held responsible for agencies outside of their direct oversight.

1. Security and Risk Management
2. Cloud Services
3. Consolidation and Optimization
4. Business Intelligence and Data Analytics
5. Legacy Modernization
“Having been on the list for as long as it has is indicative of CIOs knowing that in terms of people who are going to be held accountable by the governor, or by the legislature, or the constituents they’re pretty much [where the buck stops].” Ackley said.

 The NASCIO president also said he sees state priorities coinciding with the overall directional changes in the larger technology market space. With survey results pointing to a clear focus on cloud systems and systems consolidation and optimization, Ackley said the paradigm shift is a sign the CIO role is maturing.

“I think in general, what you’re seeing is a migration that is fairly consistent with the industry toward more of a service model and really more of a service brokering on behalf of the state CIOs. So, of course you’re seeing legacy modernization continue to be an issue, in that regard and I think we’re all recognizing how to keep one foot in that mode,” he said. “But some of the trends that you see materializing are indicative of the paradigm shift in general.”

According to Ackley, state CIOs are moving away from the implementation of single technologies, and are looking instead to more uniform solutions that support the services that end users have come to expect.

“Whereas before we would talk about things like cloud or Agile as singular technologies that we need to be paying attention to because the industry is moving that way," he said, "I think that you see the role of the CIO maturing overall into saying, ‘Truly when we talk about the future, it’s a lot more about rapid, responsive, consistent service delivery that is only deliverable if we’ve got consistent enterprise architecture.'"

6. Enterprise Vision and Roadmap for IT
7. Budget and Cost Control
8. Human Resources and Talent Management
9. Agile and Incremental Software Delivery
10. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
As for what future NASCIO surveys may hold, Ackley said he expects to see a greater emphasis put on data and business analytics, which ranked fourth on the priority list for CIOs. 

He also noted that the role itself will likely continue to evolve as government needs become more reliant on information technology.

“I think that you’ll start to see more and more prominence placed on data and business intelligence data analytics. I would say probably the tipping point there is, from my personal experience, IT is becoming seen as more of a true underpinning to what state government is doing,” he said. “A few years ago, I think a lot of it was more about the cost center associated with IT, making sure we had four-nines [99.99%] of uptime on our phones and our email and mainframe. That stuff all remains, but I think you’re seeing policy makers realize that for government to scale into the 21st century, that it has to be capable of providing things that people just expect.”

While the traditional job of the CIO has been more or less tied to keeping the government running on the back end, Ackley said the evolution of the role will continue to demand accurate, timely and concise communication with C-suite executives.

“Really, the CIO, while maintaining a lot of that historical role, also moves more into a position of being able to strategically broker technology services toward outcome and business process,” said Ackley. “As the demand on us to provide more of these types of transformational services across every strata of government increases, we also [need to] get better at communicating the narrative, the ‘Why do I care about this.’”

Eyragon Eidam is the web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at