The Evolving Job Description of a Government CIO

Image-1In recent years, we have seen a growing trend of state CIOs serving as a broker of services as opposed to owning and providing the service themselves. This has involved a significant culture shift and a commitment to systems integration. Arizona has been a leader in this regard.  In this final panel at the 2017 State Tech Summit, we learn what this shifting model has meant for government proficiency to meet constituent needs.

Jennifer Saha, CompTIA’s director, public sector councils, moderated this panel which includes David Stevens, Former Maricopa County CIO and VP for Corporate Relations, Valor Global; Morgan Reed, State of AZ Chief Information Officer; and Aaron Sandeen, past AZ State CIO and current CEO of Zuggand Inc.

Saha began by pointing out that state and local government spending is expected surpass $100 billion annually by 2018.  “Understanding the role of the CIO in this lucrative market is important if you want to win business in the government sector.”

She also highlighted results from the 2017 State CIO Survey recently published jointly by NASCIO, Grant Thornton LLP and CompTIA. State CIOs (or equivalent) from 42 states participated and were interviewed on a range of issues, from cybersecurity and cloud migration plans to data management and the delivery of government services.

When she asked panelists to explain what a State CIO does, Reed explained that the state IT landscape has changed.  “You can’t just improve, you have to transform using new ideas and new talent; our team is like a start-up within the state, it’s a very collaborative model; and we can’t do it all ourselves so we must pivot to be that role of technology broker.”

Reed went on and said, “A State CIO position is an intense position, it’s for the greater good. A lot of what a CIO does is not about technology, but finance, budget, understanding procurement vehicles, securing the right talent and then finally technology. If you have the right procurement model and the right funding, it allows you to make the right decisions.”

Sandeen said, “As a State CIO you’re capped on your head count, it’s not like private industry--you have to rely on the broker model.”

Saha asked the panelists what were some of the challenges they faced in their roles.  All seemed to agree that budget cycles, current funding and cost recovery were some of the biggest challenges.

Sandeen recounted his first days as the AZ State CIO when he used to discuss ROI with his stakeholders.  “I got laughed at – my advice to the partner community is to shift your ROI discussion to a risk-based approach discussion.  You need to define the risk and alternative costs so that a non-IT business person understands.  Ultimately, it needs to become an easy math conversation.  I also recommend that our partner community come to the table with case studies that explain how another state CIO paid for and funded a technology initiative; how they did it; the results; how it was procured and how it was funded.”

An eye-opening panel for those companies eager to tap into this $100 billion-plus market for state and local government technology purchases.