For state chief information officers, life at the office has become delicate high-wire act. While under pressure to continue delivering legacy information technology services that are critical to day-to-day operations, CIOs still have to keep up with the surging demand for new IT services, such as mobile- and cloud-based computing.
That’s a central theme from the results of a just-released survey of state CIOs by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), TechAmerica, and consulting firm Grant Thornton LLP, said Doug Robinson, NASCIO’s executive director.
“The takeaway is the continuing balance of the legacy environment with the introduction of all these new technologies and the demand for innovation,” Robinson told Breaking Gov, speaking by phone this week from the NASCIO annual convention in San Diego.
“That certainly has been the case in the last year, but it has accelerated so much with the advent of wider adoption of mobility and mobile services, cloud and social media.”
Robinson also said that state CIOs are “running to catch up” with the growing demand by citizens, state agencies and political leaders for new IT services, especially those involving mobile devices and applications.
Many of the CIOs say they are not getting the support they need in terms of hiring nor with running large, complex bids, particularly in the area of technical expertise for these procurements.”
The new survey, titled “Advancing the C4 Agenda: Balancing Legacy and Innovation“, is the third annual study of state CIO issues conducted by NASCIO, TechAmerica and Grant Thornton. The “C4″ stands for “consolidation, collaboration, clout and change.”
The survey of state CIOs, conducted between June and August 2012, represents the responses of executives from every state with an enterprise CIO organization, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories, providing an “unprecedented response rate,” according to the authors of the study.
In the survey, 57% of CIOs see mobile devices and apps as a high priority or essential, and another 32% deemed them a “medium priority.” Only 30% said their CIO organization was ready to support mobile devices and applications. Half of the CIOs said their states have totally or mostly fragmented efforts when it comes to managing mobility.
While state CIOs participating in the survey say they’re largely making this old-versus-new balancing act work, they are still faced with an onslaught of new hurdles. And it’s not just the unrelenting fiscal uncertainty that officials at all levels of government have to contend with.
Most notable among the stumbling blocks, many state CIOs aren’t receiving the backing they require from human resources departments and procurement offices, which is crucial to advancing their agendas in a fast-changing technology environment, according to the report.
“The survey found that… many of the CIOs say they are not getting the support they need in terms of hiring nor with running large, complex bids, particularly in the area of technical expertise for these procurements,” said Shawn Osborne, president and chief executive officer of TechAmerica, the technology industry’s largest advocacy organization.
Hiring talented IT professionals for state CIOs “continues to be problematic because of funding shortfalls, competition with private industry and the need to combine technologies with contract managers to deal with the growing contractor presence in IT service delivery,” the report states.
Robinson suggested that CIOs should work with personnel offices to find innovative ways of recruiting and retaining IT professionals, such as hiring them outside the classified service system at a higher compensation rate or creating internships.
A paucity of support from the central procurement office is a “longstanding pain point” for CIOs, according to the report. “They are particularly concerned when technical experts are not making key procurement decisions,” the report said. “Where feasible, some CIOs are responding by moving the IT procurement function into the CIO’s office.”
Among other issues, the survey questioned CIOs about big data, which “seems like it would have obvious applications in many state systems,” the authors of the report said. However, only 35% of CIOs have already addressed the use and management of big data in their strategic plans. Most said their staffs are untrained in and unprepared for big data.
Big data provides another example of the CIOs’ balancing act in the IT space. “Even if big data seems compelling, more pressing and immediate demands take precedence,” according to the report.
As for cloud computing 15% of CIOs said their state is “highly invested” while another 56% said their state has some applications in the cloud and is considering others; 19% said their state is “still investigating” cloud computing.
From these results, the authors of the report concluded about cloud computing that “it appears that what was previously considered a leading-edge technology has now become widely accepted.”