States should ‘rethink, reorganize’ digital services, says Delaware CIO

Delaware is currently consolidating its technology infrastructure and processes, but in the mind of James Collins, the state’s chief information officer, this effort was not initiated to benefit the state government itself, but its citizens.

“We’re really endeavoring to just change the way we deliver digital services,” Collins tells StateScoop in a recent video interview. “When citizens think about us, they think about us as one entity: the government, not all of these branches and divisions and sections. So we’re endeavoring to deliver services in that way.”

Digital government, the applications and services government provides its people online, is often viewed as distinct from the back-office processes and technologies that states manage, but Collins says the two are intertwined in a way that should encourage state technology leaders to change how they think about their operations.

“We’ve got to rethink and reorganize the way we manage technology,” Collins says. “We’ve historically worked from the data center forward. Now we’re coming from the citizen and the worker backwards.”

An example of this philosophy is manifest in Delaware in the form of a new online business portal, catered to small and medium-sized businesses, that provides a single location to access services across three state agencies: the Division of Corporations, the Department of Finance’s Division of Revenue and the Department of Labor.

“We want to take it up a level where we’re delivering an enterprise experience for the citizens where after they authenticate, they’re presented with options that are relevant to them, they can opt in to proactive communications,” Collins says.

Enabling a centralized experience for citizens starts with centralizing service delivery behind the scenes, Collins says, starting with gaining support from other departments and the office of Gov. John Carney.

“What that’s going to look like is one network team, one infrastructure team and one end-user support apparatus with service desk and desktop support,” Collins says. “We think that’s going to position us to deliver digital services in an enterprise way. It’s going to help us be efficient with the resources we’ve been entrusted with and it’s going to help us have a consistent security posture across the state.”

Collins on how his job will change in the future:

“I always think about it in terms of Star Trek. I’m sure everybody does. Back then, Scottie was down in the engine room and they were up on the bridge making decisions that weren’t in sync with the resources Scottie had lined up. Now the CIOs are up on the bridge helping to make the decisions.”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in October 2019.