NASCIO’s Take on State Procurement

This Q&A with NASCIO’s Meredith Ward is fromour recent guide, State and Local Technology: What You Need to Know.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) recently partnered with the National Association of State Procurement Officers (NASPO) to create a State IT Procurement Negotiations roadmap. GovLoop sat down with Meredith Ward, Senior Policy Analyst at NASCIO, to hear what they learned from that process.

What NASCIO discovered was that the collaborative approach taken by both organizations to create the report was the same approach that individual CIOs and CPOs should take to increase the efficacy of procurement today. Effective acquisition requires CIOs, CPOs and private-sector partners working in concert to ensure security and scalability needs are met. Ward shared her insights in this interview.

 How would you characterize the current state of IT acquisition in state and local government?

 There’s a constant challenge, because technology moves at the speed of light. One of my CIOs famously said, “Technology right now is the slowest that it will ever be in our lifetime.” That’s really key to the procurement process as well. Gone are the days where the 200- to 300-page RFP and the 18-month procurement cycle are realistic. Technology moves a lot more quickly than that.

I would characterize the state of IT procurement acquisition in states as constantly adapting. That’s not just the way that things are done, but also how the business of the states the CIO is run.

We’re seeing a lot more outsourcing. Now, a CIO is more of a broker of services. For example, states aren’t running their own data centers as much as they were 20 years ago. A lot of states are outsourcing some of those functions. And so, in order to figure out what the best solution is for a state, procurement has to be involved. Together, CIOs and CPOs can learn how to be adaptive to the pace of technology and how things are changing.

Are you seeing states leverage shared services to do that?

In our 2017 CIO Survey, we asked that question about managed services and shared services. And I can tell you that that is the direction that most states are going. This was not as common 10 or 20 years ago. Again, this goes back to the CIO becoming more of a broker of services.

What is challenging states to achieve that and other procurement goals?

The obvious thing is that the procurement system in states was set up to procure goods. It was not really set up to procure services. Especially when you’re talking about cloud services, there are a lot of misconceptions about what that means. It’s one thing for the CIO to understand what it means to be “in the cloud” and how that can be beneficial for the state. It’s another thing for the procurement director to understand that.

And then, of course, traditionally there was a hesitation to move to the cloud because of security concerns from both the CIO and CPO’s office — which is understandable because CIOs and CPOs are charged with reducing risk to the state. However, in our most recent CIO survey, there’s evidence that the hesitation is lifting, because we see that migrating security-related services to the cloud is gaining in popularity.

How do states overcome that aversion to risk in procuring new solutions?

You have to make sure that everyone is in the same room and is on the same page ahead of time. And, I can tell you that does not always happen. That’s not just people within the agency. There are things that can obviously be spelled out in a contract. But it is impossible for a CIO, or a CISO or a procurement director to sit down and put every little thing in a contract that could protect a state, because you’re basically saying we have to predict every little thing that could happen.

What’s more realistic is putting in parameters ahead of time that would allow a state and the private-sector partner to deal with whatever comes up. You must ensure that the state has a good partner in whatever private-sector entities that they’re working with. You know, there’s a difference between having a partner and referring to somebody as just a vendor or a solution provider.

That is the biggest thing – making sure that everybody is on the same page. Because cybersecurity is a team sport. It’s the No. 1 priority of a CIO, and it’s a risk-based way to protect the state. 

What’s your top recommendation for states trying to excel in procurement today?

It sounds very simplistic but honestly, communication between CIOs and CPOs and their offices is the most important thing that can happen right now to improve the acquisition process. We started working with NASPO, and what we found is that communication between those offices may not be great. And it’s not just that they aren’t meeting all the time, but that when they do meet they are speaking a different language.

There has been this classic tension between CIOs and chief procurement officials where the only time you ever heard about an IT procurement project is when things have gone wrong. You have to change that conversation.

When I say communicate, I mean build a relationship first so if something does go south, the foundation is already there. And you can really educate each other’s offices on what you mean by different terms through that relationship.

To read more about the latest news in public sector innovation, read our latest guide, State and Local Technology: What You Need to Know.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply