Partnerships, collaboration at forefront for state CIOs post-pandemic

Collaboration is an increasingly important part of the state chief information officer's role since the health crisis underscored the utility of information technology, CIOs said at a recent event.
NASCIO fireside chat 2024
Tennessee Chief Information Officer Stephanie Dedmon (left) moderates a fireside chat between Indiana CIO Tracy Barnes (center) and Texas CIO Amanda Crawford (right) at the midyear conference for the National Association of State Chief Information Officers in National Harbor, Maryland, on April 30, 2024. (Colin Wood / Scoop News Group)

When Tracy Barnes started his role as Indiana’s chief information officer in March 2020, the world was responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the role of CIO was changing, he said Tuesday at a technology conference. 

“We had everyone turning to us and asking: ‘How do I do this now?’ ‘How do I make this work?’ ‘How do we get this done?’” Barnes said during a “fireside chat” at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers midyear conference in National Harbor, Maryland. “That’s not always been the position we’ve been able to be in — we get stuck at times being looked at as just technicians.” 

By working through challenges presented by the health crisis and collaborating across agencies, the role of CIO naturally shifted to become a leader in strategy, thought and partnerships, Barnes said. Since stepping into his role four years ago, Barnes has engaged agency leadership in Indiana in a stronger and more intentional way “to understand where their business is going and understand what their real needs and expectations are, not just what problems they have,” he said.

“We’ve been really putting a lot of structure in place around business relationship management, agency management, citizen engagement and seeing that our technical expertise, our technical value, actually has business value,” Barnes said. 


That shift was also captured by NASCIO in January when the organization updated its mission statement for the first time in 20 years to reflect the importance of “trusted collaboration, partnerships.” where previously only “technology leadership” was mentioned. At the time of the change, the group’s executive director, Doug Robinson, told StateScoop that the statement is “reflective of the current environment and the future.” 

“I think that’s a key word in the new mission statement,” Texas CIO Amanda Crawford said during the fireside chat. “It’s not just collaboration and partnership, it’s trusted collaboration and partnership. It’s about building that trust, it’s about you all showing your value.” 

Crawford said that collaborating and leaning into partnerships is “critical to how we accomplish our mission in Texas.”’

She said there are 267 employees in the state’s Department of Information Resources, which Crawford oversees. 

“How do we do that with 200-ish people?” Crawford asked. “We do it in partnerships with many of y’all in this room. We’re really all together because we’re all focusing on the same mission, serving our constituency, serving our states and  better engaging the public.”

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