Hawaii’s IT shop is set to undergo big changes in the coming months thanks to some key legislative decisions that give it new power to help state agencies sketch out IT roadmaps and that put a new focus on security with some new hires.
Gov. David Ige signed a pair of bills into law last month that will fundamentally change the state’s tech operations. One formally consolidates the state’s disparate IT departments into one — the Office for Enterprise Technology Services — and empowers it with oversight of how all the state’s executive agencies buy and use technology, while the state’s new budget bill allocates money for the department to hire three new staffers focused on security, including a chief information security officer.
With the consolidation legislation taking effect earlier this month, Chief Information Officer Todd Nacapuy said he can begin shaking up the state’s IT in earnest.
“The Legislature has really started to understand that state IT matters,” Nacapuy told StateScoop. “We have to have an enterprise approach to the way that we go after IT in the state, and there has to be a return on investment on a lot of the things that we do.”
Indeed, Nacapuy said the most potentially impactful change in the new law is the way it gives the IT department the authority to work with agencies on making their tech spending as cost effective and transparent as possible. Specifically, the legislation gives Nacapuy’s team the chance to “coordinate each executive branch department and agency’s information technology budget request, forecast [and] procurement purchase to ensure compliance with the department or agency’s strategic plan and roadmap,” as well as the IT shop’s own standards.
The state’s had its fair share of problems with IT projects in the past, leading Ige to issue new project controls last December, and the new legislation is aimed at helping agencies further match up with the recommendations laid out in the state auditor’s March report on Hawaii’s IT spending.
“We’re going to be able to really, for the first time in the state, show IT cost transparency,” Nacapuy said. “We’re going to be able to really show ‘Hey look, from what was budgeted to what was expensed, here it is,’ and we’re not able to do that right now.”
With this newfound transparency, Nacapuy expects that his office will be able to work with agencies to “leverage economies of scale” for major IT purchases and better analyze department budgets to find ways that they can save the state money.
“We’ll be able to look across different departments and see the different IT projects they’re taking on and maybe be able to leverage things like federal funds across multiple agencies where we’d not looked at those types of funding sources previously,” Nacapuy said. “So we do feel there’s going to be a significant cost reduction within the state spend as we move forward with IT roadmapping and cost transparency.”
But Nacapuy is equally enthusiastic about his office’s chance to reform Hawaii’s security practices, starting with the hiring of some cyber-focused staffers.
“Like every state, Hawaii is realizing that things are changing and we really need to have a dedicated security office to help secure the state’s network and the state’s assets,” Nacapuy said.
In all, the budget allows Nacapuy to hire a CISO and two staff members to support the new security leader’s efforts. Because the state has a “decentralized” IT structure, with tech staffers working under the purview of each agency, Nacapuy envisions the new CISO “working on all of our policies and standards for all state departments across the board” to set some common guidelines for the state’s security.
“We’ve actually already started conducting a nationwide search, we have some candidates and are in that interview process right now,” Nacapuy said. “But we’re looking for someone that has a lot of state experience and has experience standing up a security organization and is really familiar with the laws and state-type work that has to be done.”
As part of the hiring process, Nacapuy hopes “to be able to pay, not commercial rates, but competitive rates to outside industry” for the new staffers.
“The governor has a mission and he wants state IT to be the best place to work in Hawaii for IT professionals,” Nacapuy said.
But he noted that the office is also taking unique approaches to identifying and attracting tech talent for the new security positions and the rest of the department’s open spots.
One idea Nacapuy is hoping to start up in the coming weeks is a “hackathon” for civic-minded coders in the state. He’s currently surveying the state’s departments to understand their biggest “constituent-facing problems,” with the ultimate goal of getting people outside the government thinking about ways to build apps to address those issues.
“The reason that helps us is it helps us identify the people within the state that have the right kind of skill sets that we’re looking for,” Nacapuy said. “Some people think of the public sector and state IT as behind the times, so this is really an education for both sides of the house, so that developers know, ‘Hey, we have career paths within the state for you to continue to grow as a professional, and on top of that, we’re running some of the latest software and hardware out there,’ so we see this as a benefit.”
Nacapuy expects his department will spend the next six months or so refining those workforce development programs, in addition to the aforementioned cybersecurity and IT spending initiatives.
But once those changes are in place, he foresees the department tackling a much more ambitious project in Hawaii: getting the state to efficiently track its data and use that information to set policy.
“As we modernize all of our state systems, what we’re trying to do is get access to data and help us come up with realistic empirical data to support legislation,” Nacapuy said. “As legislation is offered up or created, can we give our lawmakers empirical data to make the right choices when they ask about specific topics? Right now, we just can’t do it. We’re unable to say what’s causing homelessness in Hawaii, why is it is so much more prevalent in certain areas. We don’t have that kind of empirical data to help our lawmakers make the right decisions, so that’s the long term goal, that’s the 12 to 18 month goal.”