When was the last time you interacted with funhouse mirrors at a carnival? You know the ones: As you see your reflection, your limbs are distorted. In one, your arms look like long pieces of spaghetti. In another, you’re suddenly half your usual height. It can be comical and disorienting all at once.
Some days, State CIOs might feel as though they are moving through a similar experience. This is a time of transition, with an array of political and operational challenges and unparalleled opportunities to embrace the world of new IT to drive their overall agenda. Adding to the complexity is the fact more than 25 states have experienced CIO turnover in the past 18 months alone, with even more personnel changes expected following the 36 gubernatorial elections later this year.
And yet, where the funhouse mirror analogy really comes into play is how the State CIO role itself keeps shape-shifting. In the past, technical acumen was the most important skill. As citizen expectations ratchet ever higher, State CIOs are playing a pivotal role in truly transforming the business of state government. To be successful, they must be catalysts of change, conveners and collaborators across functions and departments. That requires not just technical knowhow but also a broader set of business and leadership strengths.
These are the realities of being a “CIO in the New”—serving as a transformative leader who uses technology to disrupt the way government operations are run and citizen services are delivered. I am excited about the conference program NASCIO 2018 has planned, and I am looking forward to discussing the challenges and opportunities at the annual meeting in San Diego. In the meantime, I wanted to touch on some important opportunities for State CIOs to make a positive impact.
One of the most compelling is for CIOs to advance their states’ journey to cloud. Migration is about much more than technical agility or cost effectiveness (though those are certainly key advantages). It’s also about positioning government to deliver new and innovative services more quickly and in a manner that meets digital citizens’ expectations for an excellent customer experience. Getting there is far more than a technical challenge; it also requires buy-in from agencies and leaders to be successful.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is another area rich with potential. CIOs can use AI to support automation, which improves processing speed, accuracy and efficiency, as well as augmentation—that is, delivering data-driven insights so that human workers can make more informed, and more effective, decisions. Again, while there are ample technical challenges, the larger issues are around workforce design and deployment. How should humans and machines work together? What new jobs are necessary to support AI—and what skills are required for workers collaborating with these new tools? CIOs need to partner with human capital, agency and other leaders to work through those key questions.
And, finally, every state is continuing the hard but necessary work of digital transformation, or what Accenture calls rotating to the new. Though it’s not a new topic, it emerged as the number-one “disruptive technology” in this year’s survey of State CIOs. Perhaps that’s because virtually every initiative aimed at improving citizen experience introduces other challenges—including persistent concerns about security and privacy. In other words, rotation to digital is much like the new role of the State CIO. Yes, it involves technology—but technology isn’t the sole purpose or the sole solution. It’s merely part of a much larger picture.
For today’s State CIOs, tackling that bigger picture might seem a bit like navigating funhouse mirrors. Though sometimes dizzying, the pace and rate of change can also be energizing. Pause to reflect on what’s possible. Embrace the opportunity to become a “CIO in the New.” Then let’s connect in San Diego—and prepare to drive real change for the people we serve.