How private sector IT firms can work smarter with state CIOs

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As state chief information officers begin to outsource information technology services to make government more effective and efficient for constituents, private sector partners face a deepening need to understand a state’s technology problems and develop a greater relationship with state CIOs, according to a new report.

The report, released last week from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, uses data pulled from the association’s Corporate Leadership Council’s interviews with state CIOs in 2014. The CLC is made up of NASCIO’s corporate members.

“More than ever before, states are outsourcing services that can be more efficiently handled by private-sector partners,” the new report said. “These partnerships allow states to be more effective and efficient, and to deliver services needed and demanded by their citizens.”

According to NASCIO’s 2014 State CIO Survey, the use of managed services increased to 60 percent in 2014, up 10 percent from 2010. Outsourcing of some IT applications also grew from 42 percent to 81 percent in those four years. Over the next three years, state CIOs do plan to build on their offerings built through shared services and expand their outsourcing efforts.

“This was a chance to roll up our sleeves, research individual CIOs’ real world experience and gather our collective findings to produce this best practice resource, valuable to inform both CIOs and corporate partners,” Esri’s Pat Cummens, the current CLC chair, said in a NASCIO release announcing the report.

But in order for those offerings to build organically and effectively, IT partners need to be prepared to interact with state CIOs — that means knowing their needs, understanding their wants and preparing for the unexpected things that could up along the way.

“IT partners should do their homework and read the state’s strategic plan,” the report said. Those partners need to “engage with NASCIO to understand the CIO environment before engaging with the CIO or technology staff.”

By being educated on what a state needs, the IT partner can “smooth the way to a productive relationship” with the CIO, the report said.

“The best vendor partner relationships help in managing an engagement once contracted,” California CIO Carlos Ramos said in the report. “They manage change well. They inform the state of best practices or ‘aha!’ moments.”

The report also suggests that private sector IT providers should approach meetings with state CIOs with a problem-solving mindset, not a sales pitch.

“Focus on listening to CIO concerns and try to better understand their challenges,” the report said. “Come to the meeting with a solution. Anticipate future problems.”

In addition to providing information on how to interact once a vendor begins working with a CIO, the report also said that the best way to initiate an IT partner relationship is through email, interagency meetings or networking events. CIOs also prefer presentations and discussions, as opposed to cold calls and lobbying efforts.

“Most CIOs prefer direct contact from IT partners,” the report said. “Avoid going above the head of the CIO even if there is already a relationship established.”

Microsoft’s Kim Nelson, a past-chair of NASCIO’s CLC, said in the NASCIO release that an effective relationship between CIOs and IT partners can cultivate an agile relationship between the two entities.

“As states face increasingly complex and often time-sensitive challenges, having an ecosystem of reliable and capable information technology partners is an imperative for success,” Nelson said. “Those CIOs and IT partners work together to share ideas, best practices and emerging technologies are best able to respond to these challenges in an agile manner that produces best results for the citizens.”

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Carlos Ramos, Digital Services, Innovation, NASCIO, National Association of State Chief Information Officers, Shared Services, State & Local News, Tech News
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