Mississippi Chief Information Officer Craig Orgeron’s vision for state information technology extends beyond having the latest gadget on the market.
A former president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, Orgeron focuses on establishing and upholding policies that allow his team to deliver smart technology to the state’s agencies. Over the last year, Orgeron has lead a push to the cloud, starting with a central email platform for state government workers — a definite challenge in Mississippi’s decentralized state.
His work has propelled him and his team to numerous awards both within Mississippi state government and externally in the greater state information technology community.
StateScoop talked to Orgeron to hear more about his work in Mississippi and his goals for the future of the state’s information technology operation.
Editor’s note: This interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.
StateScoop: Tell us about some of your top achievements over the past year that may have lead to your nomination for a GoldenGov award?
Craig Orgeron: As technology rapidly advances, we have more margin to grow and more opportunities to provide Mississippi government with progressive technology solutions. This past year, our Electronic Oversight Committee received Gov. Phil Bryant’s Excellence in Government Award for keeping Mississippi at the forefront of technology and for promoting efficiencies for citizens, businesses and visitors through enhancements of Mississippi’s official website, ms.gov.
We have also made strides this year in cloud strategies — in the planning and implementation of a statewide effort to consolidate Mississippi state government onto a cloud email platform for a more efficient and effective platform.
SS: What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time in your role? What’s still left to be done?
CO: I have a vision for the agency that it has been exciting to see implemented. The Department of Information Technology Services serves with focused leadership, valued relationships and technical excellence. We strive to thoroughly evaluate, test and implement state-of-the-art, cost-effective solutions that meet or exceed expectations. We take pride in the services we are able to provide.
As far as personally, I had the honor of serving as the president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers in 2013-2014. This opportunity allowed me to provide leadership at the national level in the support of state CIOs and the NASCIO mission to stimulate the exchange of information and promote the adoption of IT best practices and innovations.
This past year, I was recognized with the association’s Meritorious Services Award, which honors leadership in state government and dedication to the advancement of NASCIO’s mission. There is always room for growth and more to be accomplished, and as stated in our five-year strategic plan, our goal is for the agency to continue to provide, protect and support enterprise technology infrastructure components; investigate, develop and promote enterprise business and technology solutions to maximize the benefits of shared services; and promote the funding, procurement and management of information technology as a strategic investment.
SS: What’s been the biggest challenge you guys have faced in the past year? How’d you overcome it?
CO: Lately, most of the talk in the IT world has focused on cloud strategies. There is a constant push on how we broker cloud services, what that looks like in state government, and how to best develop a secure, definitive cloud strategy. In addition to that, I would say that we must remain mindful of governance as we move everyone forward as a whole, despite Mississippi being such a decentralized state. There can be a definite tension there of balancing the different moving pieces while continuing to move forward as one unit in strategies and technology. Having the same focus and keeping everyone moving forward with the same agenda can be a challenge in the realm of state government technology.
SS: Why public service? What lessons would you like to share with the next generation of state and local IT leaders?
CO: Public sector service is always about the greater good, and making a difference, so I think that is what ultimately led me to a career in the public sector. In a functioning democracy, neutral, merit-based civil servants are needed to carry out the directives from both the executive and legislative branches.
The key for the next generation of state and local IT leaders is to acknowledge the importance of consensus-building and collaboration. Very little is accomplished without thorough and inclusive consensus development, and the key to achieving that unified direction is regularly exercising the skills needed to bring people and ideas together. Easy to say, and very difficult to do. Wise, unified investment in IT can move government forward and accomplish much.
SS: What advice do you have for next year’s eventual class of GoldenGov nominees?
CO: My advice would be to have a plan and vision to move your agency or organization toward one goal. Be unwavering in the core values, but be flexible in the ever-changing world of IT. Always be aware of new opportunities but do not compromise in customer service and core values.
This Q&A is part of a StateScoop series highlighting the nominees for the StateScoop 50 GoldenGov award. To vote for this nominee, and to vote in the other categories up for awards, go to the StateScoop 50 awards page. Winners of the StateScoop 50 awards will be announced on May 4.