Are state CIOs focused on the right things?

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A new survey of state chief information officers suggests that complex operating environments and the approval of discretionary IT projects that “far too often” aren’t aligned to state’s business strategies tend to compromise IT development and increase the risk of project failures.

The survey also found that half of CIOs (53 percent) are developing greater operating discipline for managing data, with 10 percent now moving toward “data as an enterprise asset.” But a majority of CIOs reported that agencies still “remain in the early phases of adoption” in sharing information.

Overall, the services provided by state agencies are still not being executed as efficiently or effectively as possible, said Tom Jaskowiak, senior principal of Infosys Public Services.

The findings are part of a study by Infosys Public Services for the National Association of State Chief Information Officers that attempted to address the question, “Are CIOs focused on the right things?”

The initial results were released during the association’s semiannual conference in Alexandria, Virginia, Monday, ahead of a final report.

Among other findings pertaining to state IT operations:

  • A little more than half (54 percent) of state IT leaders say they are updating or transforming their infrastructure and applications.
  • Nearly as many CIOs, (47 percent), however, said they have an uncertain path forward, due in part to shifting priorities or because governance processes aren’t functioning fully.
  • Three-fourths (77 percent) of CIOs report using portfolio management practices to drive IT decision-making, but only 39 percent believed their efforts were proving effective.
  • A majority (59 percent) of CIOs also agreed “new discretionary IT projects are too often approved that are not aligned to the state’s business strategy.”
  • CIOs also expressed concerns that shadow IT initiatives, by agencies seeking to circumvent unresponsive IT departments, exacerbate the complexity IT officials face; and fragmented IT investment process and governance often fail to weed out redundant or misaligned projects.

The study also assessed sourcing strategies and found, to the surprise of many, that the proportion of CIOs willing to outsource IT-related business applications and services, such as enterprise resource management applications, has doubled since 2010, rising from 42 percent of CIOs surveyed in a similar poll, to 81 percent in 2014, according to Jaskowiak.

That would have been “unthinkable” just a few years ago, NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson said.

Despite the continued shift to cloud computing, the proportion of CIOs reporting plans to outsource their IT infrastructure operations has actually fallen off over the same period, according to the research, from 58 percent in 2010 to 46 percent in 2014. The reason for the apparent contradiction wasn’t clear, although the dramatic change and turnover of state IT leaders may have been a contributing factor.

According to NASCIO’s Robinson, the association has seen 75 state CIOs come and go over the past four years.

Jaskowiak noted that failures to align IT investments with state business strategies remains a troubling sign for state CIOs.

Craig Orgeron, CIO and executive director of Mississippi’s Department of Information Technology Services, noted that continuing swings in state priorities make aligning IT life cycle management practices with state business strategies a challenge. He pointed to the Affordable Care Act and its impact on health care IT as an example.

The situation has been exacerbated by swings in federal funds that flow to the states and that can make up 30 percent or more of state’s annual budgets.

Eric Sweden, NASCIO’s program director for enterprise architecture and governance, argued that states need to “come up with a means for keeping the state’s business strategy up to date,” when it comes to planning IT investments.

The study also captured what CIOs say are the biggest barriers to change for IT departments and also what are the biggest enablers.

The barriers to change included:

  • Agency resistance – losing control and funding
  • Complexity of environment
  • Lack compelling case for change
  • Insufficient value discipline
  • Business cycle tied to election cycle and its implications on business strategy
  • Adequate funding not available
  • Restrictive rules related to federal funding
  • Business engagement insufficient
  • Disagreements
  • Capacity to change

The enablers of change included:

  • Executive direction and leadership
  • Leveraging success stories, evidence
  • Business IT sophistication and accountability
  • Mandates/legislation
  • Transformational competency
  • Increased funding and/or funding rationalization
  • Transparency and effective communications
  • Crisis (e.g., the Great Recession)
  • New sourcing and service delivery models
  • IT knowing more about the business

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Cloud Computing, Craig Orgeron​, Innovation, National Association of State Chief Information Officers, Procurement, State & Local News, Tech News
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