U.S. State CIOs focus on security and streamlining

In the U.S., the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) released its top 10 list of priorities for 2017 among state-level IT decision makers this month. The key messages: protect and streamline.

Security and risk management once again made it to the top of the list for state CIOs, making it the third year in a row that security has been top of mind for them. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the Office of Personnel Management hack last year which saw up to 21.5 Americans’ data compromised.

Consolidation and optimization came second. CIOs in the public sector at state level are focusing on consolidating infrastructure and operations to produce a leaner, fitter IT department. Data centers and communications are also falling under the knife, as they attempt to cut costs and make operations more efficient.

This drive to consolidate in the public sector replicates what we’re seeing at a federal level in Canada, as Shared Services continues to try and consolidate a fragmented IT infrastructure by cutting data center numbers and server inventory to produce a more streamlined operation.

Moving to the cloud

Cloud services are another priority for state CIOs. They are working to identify service and deployment models that work in a public sector setting, and are hoping to move to an ‘as a service’ culture.

Fourth on the list was fiscal management. Budgets are always an issue for public sector CIOs who are accountable to the taxpayer, so strategies for fiscal reduction are an imperative. One key goal outlined by CIOs when thinking about this was ‘dealing with inadequate funding and budget constraints’.

Are some of these goals mutually inclusive? Can IT departments achieve multiple goals following a single set of actions? It’s hard to see how fiscal management ties in with security and risk management, save for reducing the risk of lawsuits. Cybersecurity projects are often a cost drain, rather than a productivity driver.

Conversely, consolidation and fiscal management go hand-in-hand. Reducing the number of service contracts in an organization and slashing your application, operating system and hardware portfolio can be a good way to simplify IT operations and save money in the long run, even if it means increasing short-term cost.

Depending on how it’s done, cloud computing may also help CIOs to cut costs. Handing off key applications to software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies can reduce software license costs, but the cost savings aren’t guaranteed.

Increased costs due to changes in internal IT architecture can add to the budget, and ‘cloud shock’ can be a problem as public cloud expenses mount, so a cost-effective move to the cloud needs careful planning.

One notable priority for state level CIOs was the need for agile and incremental software delivery. This was in the top 10 list for the second time. Doug Robinson, executive director for NASCIO, said that this reflected the findings of a national NASCIO survey conducted in September.

The percentage of state CIOs adopting agile methodologies in a limited, un-coordinated way was 19 per cent this year compared to 34 perc ent last year, according to that survey. Those adopting agile development for pilot projects were up to 39 per cent from 32 per cent, and those using it throughout the organization subject to centralized oversight had grown to 15 per cent from nine per cent.

“Adopting a lean-agile approach is perhaps the single best way we can position our IT departments to succeed in our accelerated society because it allows us to work more efficiently, provides greater flexibility and adds continuous value throughout a project’s progress, resulting in greater customer satisfaction,” said Lou Estrada, Deputy State CIO leading enterprise lean-agile transformation at the State of Maryland.

“Remove the fallacy that IT projects (specifically software) have an ‘end’,” he advised. “Applications continuously evolve, so integrating the development and operations teams (DevOps model) is critical.”

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Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradburyhttp://www.wordherder.net
Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with over 20 years' experience writing about security, software development, and networking.

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