State CIOs advocate for business model and legislative changes in new survey

Due to the lingering economic strain on state budgets, increased pressure has been added to the role of state chief information officers. Governors and legislatures have demanded that IT be used to streamline and save like never before, but according to a new survey of state CIOs, legislative changes are needed to enable CIOs to do these things effectively.

In a perfect world, state chief executives are also state chief information officers, or vise versa. In lieu of this fantasy, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), TechAmerica and Grant Thorton have outlined several candid strategies being advocated by CIOs in a new survey released this week. In it, CIOs suggest that business models and procurement processes need to be modernized, while the authority of CIOs over technology investments need to be strengthened.

64 percent of CIOs said they expected cuts to their budget between 2011 and 2013, despite three out of four CIOs indicating that they’ve received Recovery Act funds – or expect to – over this period. While many lament the prospect of spending more time and effort on aging IT systems, others took a decidedly optimistic tone.

“The budget situation has provided us with a crisis, but because of that we are breaking through barriers that we would have never even been able to approach,” said one CIO who responded with anonymity to the survey. Part of this new approach, many indicated, is taking another look at hosted and shared services models.

According to respondents, 76 percent said they expect to expand existing IT shared services over the next three years. Nearly half (49 percent) said they will expand existing managed services models over the same period. In addition to this predicted expansion, two-thirds of state CIOs expect to foster multijurisdictional shared/managed services arrangements with state and local public sector organizations like K-12 schools, community colleges, and other legislative branch agencies.

If the economic conditions of late and the forecasts of the future have necessitated a broad rethinking of how IT agencies deliver and share services to other government counterparts, state CIOs are also calling for more ambitious change.

The joint survey indicated that a majority of CIOs would like a more authoritative role in the construction and approval of their IT budgets and IT portfolio management. Along with these suggestions were calls for state legislatures to improve IT procurement processes.

Only 35 percent of the CIOs surveyed say that they approve the IT budgets of executive branch agencies, the report said, adding, “most [CIOs] say that their actual authority is limited, constrained by separation of powers and by legislation.” Another way to help give CIOs some control over their IT investments is by expanding their authority when it comes to procurement, survey respondents recommended.

According to a table in the report, CIOs suggested a handful of ways to improve IT procurement laws, beginning with the letter of law. “Be more flexible in source selection, contract development, and duration. Eliminate unlimited liability. Make procurement planning more proactive. Use more contract vehicles, including a state master contract(s). Use performance contracting. Use a statement of objectives instead of a prescriptive request for proposal (RFP) process,” read some of the comments.

Despite the many calls for change and the state of IT budgets, most comments contained hints of optimism.

“State governments will continue to endure tough fiscal conditions, which makes the state CIO’s job even more challenging. However, the results of the survey clearly indicate this situation presents opportunities for CIOs to execute on cost-saving strategies, innovative business models, and advance the use of emerging technologies,” Doug Robinson, Executive Director of NASCIO, said in a statement introducing the survey.

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