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North Carolina’s Keys to Successful IT Modernization

By now, most govies know that IT modernization is a major key to sustained success across enterprises. As a result, we are moving into an era of sharing best modernization practices to find out what is working and what is not. State IT departments are uniquely situated to help each other out as they face challenges distinct from the federal and other forms of government.

For this week’s State and Local Spotlight, GovLoop’s Emily Jarvis sat down with North Carolina’s Secretary and State Chief Information Officer, Keith Werner and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Eric Ellis to discuss what modernization practices North Carolina is contributing to the conversation.

Looking into the new year, North Carolina’s IT department is focusing on tackling challenges head on. “The largest challenge we have is the new Department of Information Technology,” Werner explained, “The legislation passed last year created a unified cabinet level department so the real challenge is with the transition itself.”

As the transition takes place, Werner and his team have to consider the uniqueness of each of the departments that will be transitioning into the new department. He emphasized that they are developing a transitioning exercise that is transparent and focuses on communication for flawless execution. Through this process they are also creating an enterprise resource planning office to create an entity that focuses solely on program management to help with the execution of the transition.

As a part of this restructuring, Ellis is focusing on ingraining innovation into each agencies mission. “I am getting the agencies that have been more focused on their individual agencies to become more aligned with our focus on the state,” he explained. Consolidation will allow Ellis and his team to look at the innovation that is occurring across the enterprise and feed it back into agencies. Ellis emphasized, “the key for our transition team is moving towards one department that can help the state innovate and increasing the inherent nature of innovation in everyone’s daily job.”

With widespread innovation also comes procurement reform. Werner is working towards utilizing procurement processes to facilitate IT purchases that then enable business. “We have done quite a bit of modeling in this administration to make sure that we understand what the process looks like and revamping that through improvements and executing new processes.”

One thing that has had a big impact on improving procurement processes is North Carolina’s Innovation Center. The iCenter is a working laboratory where state agencies, educational centers, private industry, and citizens can collaborate to solve complex problems surrounding how the government delivers services by connecting people with technology. Ellis emphasized that the iCenter is a key part in making better procurement decisions.

Additionally, the iCenter also assisted with a seamless rollout of Office365 in the state. Ellis explained, “we set up an entire room dedicated to Office365 where we had a training day and a ton of service brought in to focus on the new capabilities of the new Office suite.” This collaboration allowed users to interact with the software before the complete rollout. “I believe that it honestly made the rollout one of the smoother rollouts of software that I have seen in the state because the iCenter facilitated a spot to perform it,” Ellis said.

Another best practice North Carolina has to share is their human resources model. “The underlying HR model that is associated with the transition is a best practice, as we have successfully moved six of the twelve agencies thus far and we are making sure that we are acting on the Governor’s vision of making sure doing business with the state is easier for all citizens,” Werner said. Cultural innovations like this allow for the most seamless integration into one enterprise.

Looking forward, North Carolina is going to continue focusing on the citizen experience. Whether its mobile solutions or automated help desks, Werner and his team are dedicated to marrying innovation, technology and culture to bring the state to the next level. He concluded, “As technology continues to evolve for North Carolina we have been really fortunate to see an elevation in the importance of IT and how technology is more of a construction for these agencies business operations as well as citizen engagement so I am very excited about where we are going.”

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