NGA advocates better IT management for CIOs

“Managing the IT Investment: Conversations with State Chief Information Officers”

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Governors may be moving away from centralizing information technology functions, which can endanger the integrity of IT investments, according to a brief released by the National Governors Association (NGA) last week.

The report, “Managing the IT Investment: Conversations with State Chief Information Officers,” includes interviews and comments from state CIOs about the IT management structure and their evolving role.

Several current and former CIOs interviewed for the report said states are no longer using consolidated IT management strategies. Several states, such as Michigan, have maintained a centralized approach since the early 1990s. On the other hand, Connecticut announced it will scrub a previous administration’s plan to centralize IT operation under the state’s technology department.

“Now it really seems to be ping-ponging,” said Stuart McKee, former Washington state's CIO and currently Microsoft’s national technology officer, in the report. “It hasn’t solidified. It isn’t moving in a consistent direction.”

Art Stephens, who is Pennsylvania’s former CIO and now Gov. Ed Rendell’s deputy chief of staff, said total decentralization would not improve IT management. However, the report also points out that consolidating all IT functions presents other problems, such as cultural resistance from employees.

The CIOs interviewed did not give any reason why states are moving toward decentralization. However, the report listed five recommendations for helping governors shape their IT management strategies. They should:

• Consider how IT capabilities could advance governors’ policies for transforming government business.

• Consider adopting a CIO-centered IT management strategy to centralize shared functions, such as e-mail, payroll, data and voice networks.

• Recruit CIOs who have not only technology expertise but also sound business management skills.

• Empower and support CIOs by making them a member of leadership teams to help shape state IT programs.

• Allow CIOs to oversee statewide IT spending, including setting priorities and standards for IT investments and acting on spending proposals.

“The right CIO can help a governor more skillfully manage” their IT, said John Thomasian, director of the NGA Center for Best Practices, in a statement. “Successfully managed IT is one of the most important foundations state government can have to function at its best.”

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