NASCIO's top government IT priorities list in focus

This is the time of year when government IT experts start discussing top priorities for the coming year.


This is the time of year when government IT experts start discussing top priorities for the coming year.

A few days ago, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) in the US released a list of what it considers to be the top 10 state government IT "Priority Strategies for Management Processes and Solutions" for the coming year. NASCIO's list of priorities are shown below, in bold, with comments and ideas from our colleagues at IDC shown directly below each line item.

1. Consolidation / Optimisation: centralising, consolidating services, operations, resources, infrastructure, data centres, communications and marketing "enterprise" thinking, identifying and dealing with barriers

There's no question that these efforts remain highly important. The only question is whether this group still deserves the number one slot. Consolidation and optimisation have been top priorities for many government offices for the past few years, and considerable progress already has been made in eliminating redundant systems and reducing everything from surplus software licenses to superfluous servers. But we do recognise that consolidation efforts may take some time to trickle down to all levels of government. Progress is ongoing and incremental.

2. Budget and Cost Control: managing budget reduction, strategies for savings, reducing or avoiding costs, dealing with inadequate funding and budget constraints

This would be our number one priority, due to tough economic times. These efforts not only control spending, but also for help focus investments on projects which have the highest potential return on investment. Part of the budgeting process today should include IT project portfolio management. By focusing on the right IT updates at the right time, progress for information systems can be made even in the tightest budget times. But the effort must be driven at the CIO and CFO level if it's going to have significant impact.

3. Governance: improving IT governance, data governance, partnering, inter-jurisdictional collaboration, industry advisory boards, legislative oversight - achieving proper balance, agencies participating as members of a "state enterprise"

We feel that IT governance goes hand-in-hand with both #1 and #8. The focus here is on standardisation, while also making decisions that will influence the full IT enterprise. In some cases that may mean consolidation. In other cases it may mean shutting down systems and instead tapping into shared service centres, and in still other instances if may mean standardising data structures and how data is stored, labelled and shared. Governance is simply setting the rules that affect many of the other items on this list.

4. Health Care: the Affordable Care Act, health information and insurance exchanges, health enterprise architecture, assessment, partnering, implementation, technology solutions, Medicaid Systems (planning, retiring, implementing, purchasing)

States are still struggling with the IT effort associated with this act. We expect to see a renewed federal government effort to help with standardisation. Perhaps even a cloud effort which will allow states to subscribe to hosted Medicare management and reporting systems. But that's in the future. For now, IDC tracks many issues related to Health IT within the IDC Health Insights group.

5. Cloud Computing: scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities provided "as a service" using internet technologies; governance, service management, service catalogs, platform, infrastructure, security, privacy, data ownership, vendor management, indemnification, service portfolio management

Some state governments have been a bit slower than the feds when it comes to climbing aboard the cloud bandwagon. But others have moved quickly. For example, New York State uses a hosted solution for Medicare claims processing. And Michigan is embarking on a set of cloud solutions that it can, in turn, offer to local governments. All of these changes mean that IT employees will see the nature of their jobs change.

6. Security: risk assessment, governance, budget and resource requirements; security frameworks, data protection, training and awareness, insider threats, third party security practices as outsourcing increases; determining what constitutes "due care" or "reasonable"

Government offices often lag behind other industries when it comes to IT security investments. Many industries spend up to 19% of their budgets on various security-related investments. Government offices fall well behind that level. But they are increasing their investments.

7. Broadband and Connectivity: strengthening statewide connectivity, public safety wireless network/interoperability, implementing Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant

States are focusing on broadband improvements in a variety of ways. First, as more of their own IT solutions move toward cloud, offices will need to boost network connectivity to their own buildings, just to handle the new network traffic. Second, as more government workers carry notebook and tablet PCs into the field, it's becoming more important that communities be able to support broadband connectivity. Finally, citizens are demanding better networks for their own communities. Governments need to be able to work with internet service providers to encourage better broadband penetration. States should look at the federal websites BroadbandUSA and the Community Connect Grant Program from the USDA Rural Development office. Both offer links to federal grant programs to help boost state and local broadband penetration.

8. Shared Services: business models, sharing resources, services, infrastructure, independent of organisational structure, service portfolio management, marketing and communications related to organisational transformation

State governments lag a bit behind the federal government when it comes to developing robust shared services centres. Thus it's worth understanding how the feds approached this challenge. Most federal shared service centres consolidated around common enterprise solutions, such as human resource (HR) management systems, financial management systems, procurement, logistics management etc. State government CIO offices should work to identify common solutions that are needed by most agencies, and then identify which department or bureau is the leader for hosting these solutions. Those locations could serve as the genesis for reliable shared service centres.

9. Portal: maturing state portal, e-government, single view of the customer/citizen, emphasis on citizeninteractive self-service, accessibility

Interactive portal sites are highly useful, but they can be fairly complex to set up. The goal is to offer a single view of government solutions. Portal sites can be set up for internal use, or to offer citizen/visitor views of government services. Portals can focus broad offering, or on a specific niche, such as procurement portals or licence and registration portals. The challenge is that the portal view often needs to interface with multiple back-end systems, while offering search, transaction processing, payment processing and more. We believe there is a growing market for cloud-based portal solutions, but a good deal of custom programming is often needed to make a government portal highly interactive.

10. Mobile Services/Mobility: devices, applications, workforce, security, policy issues, support, ownership, communications, wireless infrastructure

We believe, as mobility solutions expand, that government IT offices will find themselves challenged when it comes to providing support for a growing variety of mobile devices. Thus we believe that IT managers will focus on two areas. The first will be to boost their own wireless infrastructures. The second will be to move toward virtualised desktops. Rather than supporting multiple hardware devices, governments can simply offer virtual desktops, allowing end users to choose their own devices, which they in turn may be responsible for maintaining.

Clearly, the priorities outlined by NASCIO will significantly impact state government IT managers in the coming months. Being properly prepared for these high-impact transitions could help those managers get ahead of the implementation.

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