CIOs Map Out Priorities

SEATTLE -- Gathered here for the National Association of State Information Resource Executives midyear conference, state chief information officers yesterday registered their wish list of issues for an information technology platform being pulled together by the nation's governors.

Methods for funding for statewide technology efforts, procurement reform and IT work force training were among the leading areas CIOs urged the National Governors Association to champion in preparing a focus for the new eight-governor task force on IT. That platform will be formalized at NGA's annual conference later this year and is being spearheaded by NGA's Center for Best Practices.

Before opening the floor for suggestions on IT issue areas, Thom Rubel, NGA's director for economic development and commerce policy, told NASIRE participants that governors are increasingly interested in technology in three general areas: the political accountability of CIOs; state IT purchasing problems; and challenges and management issues surrounding systems development.

Those broad categories resonated with CIOs. Specifically, many of the nation's top state technology officials are bothered by the fact that many of the directives they receive from governors cut across state agencies, but at the same time those CIOs often lack authority, funding or both to execute effective technology programs.

"We all need legislative funding for programs we oversee in our jobs that cut across agencies and demand a customer focus from us," said Jim Hall, CIO of New Mexico.

David Moon, Utah's CIO, said, "We need to help executive decision-makers like our governors to understand the people costs and ongoing costs of IT. They think we just buy technology. But there is a tremendous people investment and IT support costs to maintain and upgrade those assets."

Like the governors on NGA's task force, state CIOs want to see more collaborations among state agencies in IT investments and system use. "The emphasis now needs to be on collaboration. When it comes down to it, most of our agencies are doing the same or similar things. I imagine if you survey the top three agencies in each state, a lot of the same things would turn up. I hate to see us spend the same dollars over and over again on the same things," said Wendy Rayner, New Jersey's CIO.

Other CIOs suggested broadening collaboration across states. Linda Plazak, executive officer of Iowa's Information Technology Services department urged NGA representatives to bring up to interested governors multiple state volume purchasing. North Carolina CIO Richard Webb encouraged NGA to look into methods for encouraging states to work with each other on common programs.

Building integrated criminal justice systems is one of the ways states are beginning to push collaboration both within and between states, said Aldona Valicenti, Kentucky's CIO. "Even in this one area -- criminal justice -- ongoing exercises are forcing us to take a look in a collaborative way at business process re-engineering. Even though many of us for years have told ourselves and each other that our processes are different, I think in most ways, what we are doing is quite similar."

Specifically, NASIRE recently was tasked by the U.S. Justice Department to study common IT framework and architecture issues to facilitate and promote the sharing of law enforcement data across different levels of government and across different branches within a government.

DOJ awarded NASIRE a $125,000 grant to study interoperability, and the association pledged to deliver a final report at its annual meeting this fall in Indianapolis.

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