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To keep up with tech, CIOs must evolve constantly

Commentary: Drawing on lessons learned while gathering information for NASCIO's 2017 State CIO Survey, Grant Thornton's Graeme Finley encourages chief information officers to be nimble as their roles change with technology.

Graeme Finley
Bio
Graeme Finley Principal, Grant Thornton

Graeme M. Finley is a managing director within Grant Thornton’s public sector practice and has more than 20 years of experience providing cons...

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State chief information officers have adapted to change for as long as the role has existed. Today, the challenge facing the state CIO is to master the skill sets necessary to succeed in a much more complicated environment — one where the CIO is a broker of services sourced from multiple providers, and where success is as much a function of customer and vendor management as it is about delivering technology. 

While CIOs in recent decades have traditionally served as direct service providers, that is no longer primarily the case. As outlined in the most recent annual survey conducted by NASCIO, Grant Thornton and CompTIA, there has been a steady movement toward data center consolidation and increased use of outsourcing, particularly for IT applications and services.

According to the State CIO Survey, two-thirds of states now outsource at least some IT infrastructure operations, and almost two-thirds use a managed-services model for some or all IT operations. Looking forward, the majority of state CIOs plan to continue to move toward or expand outsourcing, including expanded use of IT shared and managed services. This evolution is occurring at all levels of government.

As the role of the state CIO transitions from provider to broker of services, there are a number of related adaptations to be made. For example, the CIO as a broker now faces different workforce challenges than in the past, with a greater need for staff with strong customer and account management skills, and the ability to oversee complex contracts with multiple third-party vendors.

Similarly, CIOs are now challenged to utilize a variety of different funding and financial management practices. Sizable proportions of the revenue from traditional charge-back services are going to third-party providers, while existing government-owned fixed assets continue to require maintenance for a smaller user base. Additionally, dedicated funding for truly enterprise services is increasingly being sought, with statewide cybersecurity funding a common example.

Another challenge facing CIOs is the planning, procurement and oversight of IT projects. System modernization initiatives are moving from the traditional peak-and-valley capital investment model of “purchase-maintain-replace” to a more agile product life cycle model of continual innovation and improvement that requires more consistent “life cycle management funding” every year.

Finally, emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, drones and autonomous vehicles are challenging the very definition of what should be considered IT under the purview of the CIO role.

Taken together, these developments make it difficult to predict what the role of the state CIO will look like in the decade to come, but we know the CIO must be agile, constantly adapting and evolving as the landscape shifts under our feet.

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State & Local News, Careers & Elected Officials, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Management & Workforce, Procurement, Tech News, Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, Digital Services, Emerging Technology, IT Infrastructure, Association News, National Association of State Chief Information Officers, Commentary, Association / Nonprofit, Private Sector, NASCIO 2017 State CIO Survey

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