Great things happen in Illinois. It was the first state to ratify the 13th amendment and abolish slavery. The ice cream sundae originated there. And maybe most importantly Twinkies were invented there in 1930. Fortunately, Illinois has continued to kindle the spirit of innovation into the 21st century, most recently in their IT department.
In order to gain more insight into Illinois’ IT innovation, Emily Jarvis sat down with Hardik Bhatt, Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the state of Illinois on this week’s State and Local Spotlight.
When she talked with Bhatt at this time last year, Illinois was just starting out in their modernization journey. Back then priorities included consolidation, customer centric culture, and cybersecurity. They were also preparing to roll out the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), a new agency that brought the entirety of the state’s IT under one umbrella.
Fast-forward eight months and Illinois is making progress on these priorities, but they’ve also added some new ones. “Our entire journey as an IT department can be mapped out in three steps: improving the business of IT, improving the business of the state using IT, and finding areas where we can lead from,” Bhatt explained.
The most significant way Illinois evolved to achieve these goals was consolidating 38 IT silos into the Department of Innovation and Technology. “This effort brought together 1,700 employees and a billion dollar spend into a coordinated department, it’s almost like we’re running a billion-dollar startup,” Bhatt emphasized. Beyond consolidation, the purpose of DoIT is to provide high-value, customer centric technology to agencies so they can continue to foster collaboration and empower their employees to provide the best services to their citizenry.
While modernizing technology and practices has been beneficial to Illinois, Bhatt underscored that cultural innovation must take place as well. He explained, “we are focusing on building a borderless culture. In order to do this, we brought together all the CIOs of the different agencies and put them together in groups of 5-7 and gave them enterprise strategy responsibility.” Some of these groups include things like cybersecurity, backend development, and analytics. These working groups bring together technology leaders from across the state, further breaking down silos and creating a borderless culture across the state.
Bhatt stressed that if other states are looking to emulate Illinois’ innovation they should focus on partnerships. Internal partnerships are key to creating the borderless culture that Illnois is encouraging across the state. Illinois also has two advisory board that help transform the state’s IT mission and help them become a smarter state.
Additionally, Illinois has a significant focus on public-private partnerships that offers solutions for everything from cybersecurity, to finance, to regulatory issues. Bhatt emphasized, “one of the things that has helped us most is learning how to effectively partner with the private sectors, academics, and nonprofits, as well as internal partnerships within technology and business.”
As Illinois continues to champion innovation, Bhatt and his team want to mirror the governor’s priorities. “Our governor wants to make Illinois compassionate and globally competitive while providing the best citizen experience possible,” he explained. Instilling these values into the state’s core IT mission allows Illinois to persistently champion IT advancement.