Georgia CTO looks to legacy modernization as opportunity for better digital services

For Steve Nichols, Georgia’s chief technology officer, delivering good digital services to the citizen is just part of being a responsive government.

Nichols, who joined the Georgia Technology Authority in 2002 as CTO, said the state’s legacy modernization efforts — including continued improvements to the web portal — enable the state to deliver new digital services to the citizen, based on their demand.

“I view legacy modernization as an opportunity,” Nichols told StateScoop TV at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers midyear conference last month. “When you’re mid-lifespan on a line of business app, it can be really hard to do anything new and different.”

But when an agency comes to GTA — the state’s broker for technology services and central IT agency — that gives the Nichols and his team a chance to look at the service government is trying to deliver and determine the best way forward.

“They’re going to go out to market, replatform, maybe get a new solution,” Nichols said. “That’s our opportunity to really move the needle all at once to whatever we’ve been stuck at for a couple of years.”

A good majority of services, though, come through the state’s citizen-facing web portal, which the state handles in-house — as opposed to other states which contract out with companies like NIC to handle digital services.

Recently, the state turned to the Amazon Echo platform to bring voice-control enabled services to residents with disabilities.

“[It’s not] just desktop and mobile, but we’re also looking at things like voice interfaces like the Alexa device from Amazon, Apple Watches and that kind of thing,” Nichols said. “For us, [digital service user experience] is an education and awareness mission of teaching agencies.”

Nichols said he and the team regularly encourage agency leaders to think about digital services from a different vantage point than their typical approach, and instead focus on the citizen’s perspective toward user experience.

“[We encourage and teach them] how to read the analytics,” Nichols said. “If everyone’s bouncing off of your site, your traffic’s falling off when they get to pages, that’s something not working around the user experience.”

This video was brought to you by CA Technologies.