AI can transform state workforce, says Washington state CIO

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and robotic process automation aren’t just fancy new toys, says Washington state Chief Information Officer Jim Weaver, but tools that will help the state reconfigure its workforce.

“Emerging technology is really helping us to streamline operations,” Weaver says in a video interview with StateScoop. “So what I’m looking at in the State of Washington, particularly within my own agency is two-thirds of our workforce today is focused on operational components and I would like to change that paradigm to have the majority of our workforce focusing on strategy design and transition, because in my mind that’s where we’re going to provide the most value back to our agencies.”

This is the appropriate niche for an information technology office like his, Weaver says. In Washington state, Weaver leads Washington Technology Solutions.

“I’m not able to compete with the supplier community on service operations because they have that market optimized,” Weaver says. “IT, as you know, is a commodity and from a state perspective, that’s not an area I can compete in with suppliers.”

Weaver, a former IT official in Pennsylvania, was appointed Washington state’s CIO in November 2018. Using technology to change how the state’s employees work has been a key priority under his leadership.

“So when it comes to the paradigm, I want us to focus on strategy design and transition opportunities and bring a lot more value,” Weaver says. “And that’s where I see a lot of emerging technologies, especially around AI and RPA, helping to streamline those and introduce those technologies effectively where we can within the agencies to drive business value.”

Weaver on his top priorities:

“I can summarize my top priorities in three areas. It’s about governance, it’s about financial accountability and it’s about technology convergence.”

Weaver on cloud computing:

“Cloud’s our next evolutionary step we need to take in the State of Washington. We need to go to cloud for a lot of reasons. First and foremost is getting access to the newer technologies.”

Weaver on cybersecurity:

“At the end of the day, bad actors want the data. While we’re never 100 percent secure, if you will, on the perimeter, we do a very good job on doing the compliance, the regulatory and the overall security of the perimeter.”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ midyear conference in National Harbor, Maryland, in May 2019.