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Top CIO priorities and technologies see shakeup in 2015 NASCIO survey

Published: November 14, 2014

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The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) released its annual “State CIO Priorities for 2015” survey, documenting the programs, initiatives and technologies that state IT leaders will be pursuing over the next 12 months.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) released its annualState CIO Priorities for 2015” survey, documenting the programs, initiatives and technologies that state IT leaders will be pursuing over the next 12 months. The survey is broken down into two lists: priorities and technologies, and usually provides an accurate picture of what topics weigh heaviest on the minds of chief information officers (CIOs).

Deltek uses these lists to track how priorities change year over year and provide guidance on where the market is heading. This year saw both lists follow a familiar pattern: little change in the highest priorities and big change everywhere else.

Top CIO Priorities

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

State CIO Priorities (NASCIO)

1

1

3

6

7

6

4

Security

2

3

2

5

4

--

--

 Cloud Services

3

2

1

1

1

2

1

Consolidation/Optimization

4

9

9

7

8

4

--

Broadband/Wireless Connectivity/Interoperable Broadband Public Safety Network

5

6

5

2

2

1

3

 Budget and Cost Control

6*

--

    --

--

--

--

--

Human Resources/Talent Management

7

5

--

--

--

--

--

Strategic IT Planning

8

7

4

10

--

--

--

 Mobile Services/Mobility

9

--

10

--

--

--

--

Disaster Recovery

10*

--

--

--

--

--

--

Customer Relationship Management

 

Looking at the past three years, it has been fascinating to see the interplay between the top three priorities and how each one fuels the rise and emergence of others. Consolidating and optimizing existing IT practices has been a top three CIO priority every year since Deltek began tracking the survey in 2009. This year’s third-place ranking is actually its lowest ever, and the message from CIOs is clear: centralize, make it smaller, and make it more efficient.

Cloud computing services offer a way to achieve all three of these goals. The ability to outsource the hosting of entire software systems or data warehouses to a third party allow states to shrink their server footprint, consolidate data centers, reduce personnel costs, and reap a host of other cost-saving measures that fit right into the script CIOs have been following for the past decade.

Finally, if you’re going to jump onto the cloud bandwagon, you’re also going to inherit the number one headache that comes with using it: security. Now, I have heard cloud experts point out that it does not matter whether your system is on or off premise, private or public – good IT security practices are more important than the vehicle delivering your services. Nevertheless, the perception that the cloud is inherently less secure is rampant among the general public. Moreover, I have heard more than one state CIO remark that in contract negotiations, the gap between what governments and vendors mean by “secure” remains large and, in some cases, prohibitive.

Outside the top three priorities is where the turnover starts to show, and it is clear that 2015 will be a year of transition for state IT officials, including two new categories that haven’t been on CIO’s radar for the past seven years. A number of priorities at the lower end of the list in previous versions have jumped to the top half this year, starting with broadband and wireless connectivity in fourth place. While expanding broadband has made NASCIO’s list in one form or another the past six years, the type of broadband that CIOs focus on has been a moving target.

The Interoperable Broadband Public Safety Network (or FirstNet) came in ninth the past two years. The heavy planning period and coordination between the federal government funding the project and the states in charge of implementation made it a hot short-term topic. Along with the more general broadband and connectivity category, this topic hasn’t cracked the top seven in the past five years. The higher ranking heading into 2015 likely reflects the nationwide push for funding broadband expansion across the country. A series of federal grants (including the Connect America Fund and the Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program) and private sector initiatives by the nation’s leading telecom carriers are providing heavy incentives for state governments to collectively raise the quality and availability of broadband access in the more rural areas of their states. These areas have traditionally been neglected and have been somewhat left behind as the Internet/broadband/Wi-Fi era has swept through the nation’s urban and suburban enclaves.

Budget and cost control comes in at the midway point, where it has remained steady for the past three years. The slow, laborious climb out of the Great Recession has lessened the urgency of this priority a bit, but it is difficult to envision a year where CIOs won’t at least pay lip service to the idea of cutting costs, in line with the consolidation and optimization category that perennially receives a top-three ranking.

Two topics broke the top ten for the first time this year: human resources/talent management (sixth) and customer relationship management (tenth). NASCIO provides very little explanation for why these topics rank so high in the minds of state IT policymakers, but you cannot attend an IT conference or speak to a CIO for very long without hearing the concerns they have about recruiting the next generation of IT professionals and fostering better communication between state agency leaders and the state technology apparatus. Both of these issues are long-term, slow-burning topics that don’t get a lot of headlines, but do cause a lot of headaches for CIOs.

Top CIO Technologies

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

State CIO Priority Technologies (NASCIO)

1

1

1

3

2

4

--

Cloud Computing

2

6

4

2

4

--

3

Legacy Application Modernization/Renovation

3

3

2

4

--

--

10

Mobile Workforce Technologies

4

7

9

8

8

8

9

Business Intelligence and Business Analytics

5

8

--

--

--

--

--

Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity

6

2

7

--

7

5

--

Security Enhancement Tools

7

5

3

1

1

1

1

Virtualization

8*

--

--

--

--

--

--

Data Management

9

4

6

6

9

6

--

Enterprise Resource Planning

10

10

8

5

3

2

4

 Networking

 

The annual top technologies list follows a very similar pattern, with a big three that have remained more or less static over the past seven years. Cloud computing continues its reign as the hottest technology adoption for the third year in a row – never ranking below fourth since 2010. Familiar partners follow as mainstays: legacy application modernization and mobile workforce technologies round out the top three.

We’ve already discussed how cloud and modernization/optimization have complimented and driven each other over the past several years. Now let’s talk about another trend that feeds into that same cycle: mobile workforce technologies. For years, state policymakers have sought new and innovative ways to integrate BYOD (bring your own device) policies into the government workforce. This development has been amplified as governments have pushed more of their IT infrastructure to the cloud, making it easier for workers to access systems and files they need from their home computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. This has also raised a host of security concerns because IT officials must worry about their employees’ personal devices as well as their government-issued ones. Additionally, while many IT infrastructures are set up to facilitate a secure environment for a limited number of approved brands and devices, BYOD means that governments must have adequate security protocols in place for a greater number of products.

The biggest jump in priority this year was business intelligence and business analytics, which leapt from ninth in 2013 to fourth in 2015. This is just another example of the public sector being behind the private sector when it comes to technology adoption. In a world where Netflix, Google and the NSA have been leveraging big data and analytics to track and model every facet of human behavior, it is well past time for state and local government policymakers to do the same (within reason). This isn’t even a new concept for state and local government, as the data-driven approach to governing made famous by Baltimore’s CitiStat program and depicted as "Compstat" in HBO's “The Wire”, has been around since the turn of the century. It’s no surprise that state governments are following suit as the entire world seems to be moving further along the path of a data-driven world.

It’s difficult to discern just how seriously CIOs take disaster recovery, which lands in fifth for technologies, but ninth for priorities. In terms of platitudes, you will not find many CIOs who would publicly downplay the importance of a solid disaster recovery and business continuity plan. However, in practice, these issues don’t get as much love as some of the other technologies and often fall into the nice-to-have end of the spectrum when it comes time to fund and prioritize new projects or programs. The rapid jump in prioritization over the past three years (not on the list from 2009-2013, eighth in 2014, and fifth in 2015) may indicate that states are starting to realize the value in a good backup plan (or backup data center in this case).

The bottom half of the list is a collection of familiar faces as security, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and networking all continue to find a place every year in the top ten. Virtualization has seen the biggest drop over the past seven years, going from four straight number one rankings from 2009-2013, to seventh this year. Data management is listed as a new priority this year, but can perhaps be seen as an evolution of the document/content/records/email management category that was a survey mainstay in prior years. Having succeeded in implementing these digitization strategies on a micro and agency level, CIOs are now apparently thinking bigger and looking to push master data management systems to handle all this content.