One of Gov. Pat McCrory’s first priorities when he took office in 2013 was to move information technology from the back room to the boardroom.
Early on, he partnered with the then-Office of Information Technology Services to launch a physical “try before you buy” location in the state’s Innovation Center. The center saved the state millions of dollars, and cultivated a culture that put the state on the cutting edge of data analytics and digital services, he said.
And just in the last year, McCrory promoted the state’s IT office into a cabinet-level department, underscoring technology’s importance as a strategic enabler.
For this work with the information technology operations of his state, McCrory was nominated for a StateScoop 50 GoldenGov award, which highlights the leaders in state government charting the path for the future of state information technology.
StateScoop caught up with McCrory on his technology accomplishments, priorities and thoughts on the importance of public service.
Editor’s note: This interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.
StateScoop: Tell us about some of your main achievements over the past year that may have resulted in your nomination for a GoldenGov award?
Gov. Pat McCrory: When I took office, information technology was really viewed as a back room service rather than a strategic enabler. This view inhibited the way agencies interacted with each other and with citizens. I was determined to change that mindset and immediately made IT a priority. I asked my cabinet to break down silos and work as a team to serve the citizens of North Carolina, providing better customer service and efficiency. That said, I’ve been excited to see what we’ve been able to accomplish and build upon over the last year. Some of our notable achievements include:
- Opening the Innovation Center (iCenter) as a proving ground for technology solutions. The iCenter adopts a “try before you buy” approach to testing technology systems before the state invests in them. It acts as a working laboratory where state agencies, educational institutions, private industry and citizens can collaborate and solve challenges by connecting people and technology to transform the way government delivers services. To date, North Carolina has tested more than $9 million worth of technology at no cost to the state. We have seen an annual savings of $1.4 million in digital storage costs and a savings of $7 million in renegotiated contracts. In addition, the iCenter has won three national awards (including a 2015 StateScoop 50 award), and is credited with starting a national conversation about innovation in government.
- North Carolina’s Government Data Analytics Center (GDAC) ties to my vision of doing business with state government more easily. Under my direction, GDAC moved from the State Controller’s Office to the Department of Information Technology to make business intelligence and data analytics an enterprise-wide effort. A key function of GDAC is in identifying opportunities where data sharing and integration can generate greater efficiencies and improve service delivery by state agencies, institutions and departments. Examples of GDAC programs include the North Carolina Financial Accountability and Compliance Technology System (NCFACTS) and Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services (CJLEADS). Because of NCFACTS, which identifies fraud and waste in areas like unemployment insurance, unemployment insurance program debt was reduced from $3 billion to less than $1 billion in 16 months. CJLEADS is a data integration system that provides law enforcement personnel with access to state-owned information in their vehicles. If law enforcement can save five minutes each time they query CJLEADS, the value of the time savings is estimated at $18.6 million annually. That said, if a single life is saved because of the system, its value is priceless.
- My team and I launched the digital commons project, in collaboration with cabinet agencies, to bring state agency websites into the 21st century. Redesigned, mobile-friendly websites provide better customer service at a reduced cost and allow citizens to more effectively and efficiently interact with state government. Since the launch of the redesigned nc.gov, the number of site users has tripled, page views have more than doubled and the number of mobile users has more than tripled.
SS: What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time in your role? What’s still left to be done?
PM: I’m most proud of my administration’s efforts to make doing business with state government more user friendly, as well as making state government more efficient from an IT perspective. These have been meaningful accomplishments that will hopefully transform the way information technology and state government work together. While we have achieved a lot in this area, we still have work to do. Efforts are still underway to consolidate the state’s IT resources into a unified cabinet-level Department of Information Technology, which will make state government more cost effective and efficient for the citizens of North Carolina.
SS: What’s been the biggest challenge you guys have faced in the past year? How’d you overcome it?
PM: Historically, North Carolina’s technology systems were not designed to work together, leaving too much duplication and complexity. It was clear that change was needed, and IT in the state needed to be fixed and modernized. From the beginning, I had a vision that “interacting with the government should be as consumer friendly and cost effective as checking the latest scores or shopping on a smartphone.” Our focus on effectively serving the citizens drove the efforts to restructure IT and reimagine the role that it plays in the state. An example of this is the consolidation that is currently underway of North Carolina’s IT resources into a unified cabinet-level Department of Information Technology. The department will reduce the costs of delivering IT services while improving citizen interaction.
SS: Why public service? What lessons would you like to share with the next generation of state and local IT leaders?
PM: I think one of the most important practices we have instituted throughout my time in office thus far is taking a “try before we buy” approach toward state technology solutions. We did this by establishing the North Carolina Innovation Center, which is a working laboratory where state agencies, educational institutions, private industry and citizens can collaborate and solve challenges by connecting people and technology to transform the way government delivers service. So far, through the iCenter we have:
- Tested more than $9 million worth of technology at no cost to the state.
- Seen an annual savings of $1.4 million in digital storage costs.
- Saved $7 million in renegotiated contracts.
- Earned three national awards.
SS: What advice do you have for next year’s eventual class of GoldenGov nominees?
PM: Technology is the key to modernizing state government. I recommend taking the approach of using IT to help identify challenges, create solutions and ultimately transform the way state government delivers products and services.
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.