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Illinois: The State That Consolidated

It is always a great day whenever a state has a set plan and openly declares the future path their government will take in the realm of IT. On January 25th, 2016, Bruce Rauner, Governor of Illinois signed an executive order to do just that. Executive Order 2016-01 institutionalizes Illinois’ movement to consolidate multiple information technology functions into a single Department of Innovation and Technology.emily-snl-badge-02-300x300

Hardik Bhatt, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the state of Illinois, sat down with Emily Jarvis on GovLoop’s State and Local Spotlight to discuss what this new order means for the future of Illinois’ IT programs.

“I firmly believe that the biggest asset Illinois has is its 1,700 strong IT workforce,” Bhatt said. In order to fully utilize the 1,700 IT workers, Illinois decided to cut down silos and bring the staff under one IT umbrella.

Although the first operational day for the newly created Department of Innovation and Technology will not be until July 1st, 2016, preparations are underway. Illinois has already begun to envision what the new department will prioritize. “The idea is to take technology from a kind of back office operation, managing servers and telecommunications, and turn it into a really front and center-focused one,” Bhatt explained.

Consolidating IT will help the state’s economy move forward. “It is very difficult to do business in and with the state because if you have a business in Illinois you have to go to multiple places within the government to figure out what you really need to do,” Bhatt said. This explains Illinois’ new movement to focus on customers. Bhatt defined their customers as agencies, businesses, and residents.

Wanting to be a customer-centric organization, the new Department of Innovation and Technology will work to become more agile and robust in all things IT, such as data analytics. And since most customers are now using tablets or are using programs such as Adobe Form to get their work done, we can expect to see Illinois move from paper to technology.

However, no new IT department can go without addressing cybersecurity. “Cybersecurity is all about awareness and control. It’s a process–not a destination. So, consolidation is actually going to help upgrade the overall cybersecurity position of the state of Illinois because it isn’t going to be inconsistent anymore,” Bhatt said.

This means even consolidating matters of cybersecurity. Illinois has created a cybersecurity focused team, an advisory board with the governor-consisting of various CEOs of big companies, as well as an executive security team, which consists of govies such as the director of public safety, the director of Illinois’ emergency management agency, and Bhatt himself. These new relationships are meant to open the line of communication among all key players, in hopes to collaboratively address cyber issues and processes.

Change is never easy, but Illinois has done its best to set the stage internally. “We have a very heightened communication awareness. We’ve been talking about transformation for quite some time–with both internal and external audiences,” Bhatt stated. Bhatt shared how he has gathered 500 central IT department employees together (twice now) and has personally met with every agency director, CIO, the Chief of Staff, and the Chief of Transformation to ensure govies received the transparency they required for the transition. And if that wasn’t enough, Illinois has also worked to share the information openly with citizens, i.e. union professionals. “The idea is to engage them in the change, not do the change to them. We make them a part of the change,” Bhatt declared.

This new consolidation effort marks a change in the way Illinois’ IT will be structured. We’ll continue to follow its progress over the next seventeen months as the changes unfold.

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