Connecting state and local government leaders
COMMENTARY | Chief information officers will play an important leadership role in integrating technology solutions that improve efficiency and the overall experience with government agencies.
Dated government processes can be debilitating when attempting to drive change. But chief information officers are uniquely equipped to change long-standing internal processes to build fluidity into government operations.
Gone are the days where government CIOs are the boxes and wires, pocket-protector-uniform type. They are business leaders and big picture thinkers who must navigate governors, legislatures, agency heads and the public.
Contrary to popular belief, soft skills are of greater value in a government setting than the “hard” technical skills often associated with a CIO. The ability to communicate complex concepts enables these leaders to evolve governments to market conditions and build consensus for solutions across a wide array of stakeholders.
As one state CIO stated in the NASCIO State CIO As Communicator survey, “the most significant tasks before a state CIO do not require technological skills. Successful execution is rooted in outstanding and visionary leadership.”
When asked about the most critical success factors for CIOs to drive results, NASCIO found the top responses to be: 1) enterprise vision and strategy; 2) security and risk management; 3) agency customer service and relationship management; 4) enterprise IT governance; and 5) align IT for value creation.
Although government CIOs work in environments encumbered by old processes and under investment, many opportunities for improvement exist. Adept CIOs can learn from our pandemic experiences to dismantle the processes that need to be broken and create environments that welcome change and innovation.
Creating a Continuously Evolving Culture
Governments are not built to change quickly, but technology is constantly changing. CIOs can streamline the government's ability to buy technology services by bringing more offerings inside the procurement walls.
Utilizing tactics such as convenience contracts, which qualify multiple providers for a defined service or solution allowing agencies to choose between providers without an RFP process, can enable a marketplace of offerings designed to meet agency business needs. By working with agencies and understanding the IT market, CIOs can help broker the right combination of services and technologies to support an agency mission. Helping arrange, organize and orchestrate services from various IT providers enables a culture of iteration that recognizes technology as always changing.
Public sector leaders are on a mission to make customer engagement a refrain in the halls of government. For years, commercial organizations have measured customer data, buying patterns and net promoter scores all in the name of targeting the right products to the right customers at the right time.
Governments, however, have not historically viewed their services with a customer-first lens. State and local governments provide services designed to promote a functioning society and to protect our individual rights. But the priority has mostly been on delivering a service rather than evaluating the customer experience with that service.
To continue building trust in government, public officials must find ways to cut through the noise of social media, and the vicissitudes of daily life to reach audiences, deliver services and provide fact-based information individuals can rely on.
CIOs are leaders in the move toward a more engaged government. CIOs can improve the dialogue between government and its constituents by using technologies that reach individuals with personalized content relevant to them, or by bringing people into digital platforms that allow their voices to be heard and their input to be measured.
Government is headed in this direction. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is developing measures for engagement. It recently created its version of a “net promoter score,” deploying a survey that asked farmers for feedback on agency services and how those services could be improved. And Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan developed a plan to ramp up customer service training and establish performance metrics to track progress.
We are at the beginning of a new era of “engaged government.” CIOs will lead this evolution by listening to residents, deploying technologies designed to engage with individuals, using data to measure input, and delivering outcomes relevant to an individual’s need.
Patrick Moore is vice president of business development at Granicus, and was previously chief information officer for the state of Georgia.