5 Technology Modernization Insights from Government CIOs

A few of our team members attended the Beyond the Beltway 2022 – Virtual Event hosted by the Center for Digital Government. It was an incredible opportunity to hear directly from state and local government CIOs and CSOs. They discussed the initiatives they are working on, the tech trends important to their region, and the best ways the private sector can be a true partner in finding solutions to their problems.

One thing was certainly evident, government CIOs and CSOs have their work cut out for them. They have to balance federal directives with constituent service expectations within the constraints and protocols of the local governing body. The featured speakers from government organizations across the country were generous with their insights, and the sessions were expertly moderated by the staff at the Center for Digital Government. Here are a few things we learned about technology modernization at the state and local levels of government.

1. Strategic plans inform technology modernization considerations

Although the featured CIOs spoke to the specific needs of their region, they all stressed that their strategic plan, which is available to the public, guides all modernization considerations. Their projects reflect these overarching government directives heard throughout the event:

  • Keep our systems secure (cybersecurity)
  • Protect the privacy of our people (PII data)
  • Meet constituent expectations (digital engagement)
  • Support remote and hybrid workforces (secure cloud-based systems)
  • Prove compliance (tracking and reporting)

Any modernization project will advance progress towards the strategic plans and support the overarching directives.

2. CIOs use existing technologies, processes, people, and relationships wherever possible

The featured CIOs spoke passionately about being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. They always first evaluate and leverage existing systems and expertise wherever possible. Then, they review internal processes and skills and engage with partners they know and trust.

If a technology modernization initiative is needed, government CIOs reach out to each other looking for similar, successful projects. They want the highest probability of success with the least risk possible – and don’t want to re-invent the wheel.

3. Funding for technology modernization is only part of the solution

Yes, having money allocated for technology modernization is great. But the CIOs stressed that the funding is only a piece of the overall initiative. The more significant challenges lie in the execution of getting the project completed.

Government CIOs are looking for holistic proposals beyond the specific technology solution. The proposals must also include:

  • External experts assigned to the project
  • Internal IT resources required to support the project
  • Best practice frameworks and guides
  • Relevant case studies
  • Knowledge transfer plans
  • Long-term support considerations (maintenance fees, upgrades, training, etc.)

Comprehensive plans help give the CIOs confidence that the modernization project is successful and sustainable.

One final point stressed by several of the speakers – it’s challenging to retain internal IT talent within the government. It’s a very competitive job landscape, with many choosing employment in the private sector. Therefore, CIOs tend to give favor to external suppliers who will help upskill and reskill government employees to support the modern technology and processes

4. Technology suppliers need to do their homework

The public availability of contact information for government IT staff makes reaching out to the CIOs incredibly easy. While our speakers welcome the outreach, they are often disappointed that technology suppliers haven’t researched what matters for that specific CIO office. The cold outreaches are broad, generalized, and focused on selling to the CIO.

Government CIOs want the outreach, but they want to understand the pitched technology fits within the context of their strategic plan and the ecosystem of providers they already use. This information is publicly available, so they want suppliers to do their homework and frame the solution in the following ways:

  • Plan – what specific initiatives or directives does the technology modernization support?
  • People – who are the people involved, and how will others and the community benefit?
  • Process – what process improvements does the technology modernization support?
  • Technology – what are examples of it working for similar organizations solving like challenges?
  • Policy Implications – what are the policies considerations surrounding the technology?
  • Performance – how do we measure and share positive outcomes resulting from technology modernization?

The final thought one CIO offered to technology vendors was, “bring me leading edge, not bleeding edge, tech.” The agreement was while cutting-edge technology may be interesting, it doesn’t have a place in government until sufficiently proven.

5. Public CIOs want true partnerships with private sector technology providers

State and Local CIOs are operating to plans that extend years into the future. They also are tying every technology investment to the needs of their community, such as democratizing broadband access and keeping their citizens safe from cybercriminals. These challenges can’t be solved with a single technology or even within a single administration. And the balancing forces within the government mean technology modernization progress is slow compared to the private sector.

Therefore, government CIOs want partners with them for the long haul. They want partners committed to being a part of the solution beyond the technology they may provide. Partners who can bring ideas, best practices, and other partners and who take the time to build a personal and trusted relationship give the most value. Those are the partners who work on the government project.

Synchrony Systems’ Work in State and Local Government

We have been fortunate to serve several state and local government organizations such as Bay Area Rapid Transportation (BART), City of Atlanta Fire Department, Oregon State Judicial Department, and New York City Police Department. Through our trusted partnerships, we helped migrate and modernize their legacy applications to modern, cloud-based, and mobile-friendly applications and user interfaces.

Our automated migration and modernization technology allows our partners like IBM, Astadia, and TSRI to leverage our platform and expertise on government modernization initiatives efficiently and cost-effectively.

If you are in the public sector and would like to learn more about our past projects, technology, or partnerships, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.