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One State is One State – Breaking Down the Myth of Universal State IT

“Fifty nifty United States from thirteen original colonies;
Fifty nifty stars in the flag that billows so beautifully in the breeze.
Each individual state contributes a quality that is great.
Each individual state deserves a bow, we salute them now.”

Penned in the 1960s, the “Fifty Nifty United States” song is a favorite of 3rd grade classrooms across the country. Not only does it help schoolchildren learn the 50 states in alphabetical order, but it also demonstrates that each state offers a unique quality.

Sure, you could probably argue that the agricultural output from Indiana and Iowa are pretty close or that the fall foliage in Connecticut is somewhat similar to the turning leaves in Vermont. But when it comes to IT, these states are in leagues of their own.

The theme of this year’s annual National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) conference was “One State is One State.” Walking into the conference this year, I thought they were all pretty similar. Surprisingly, that isn’t the case.

While Vermont is still working to implement broadband statewide, North Dakota, which was a leader in broadband implementation, has been focused on moving its systems off the mainframe. While North Dakota is leaving the datacenter, its colleagues to the south are simply looking for ways to update their mainframes.

Conversation after conversation, the ability to lump the states together grew more and more difficult. However, there were three trends that all states agreed are a big priority going into 2019.

1.Cybersecurity Improvements are Imperative

Johanna Clyborne (MNIT), Commissioner and Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the State of Minnesota, noted that her state spends about 2 percent of its IT budget on security, compared to the industry-standard 8 to 10 percent, which marks a considerable increase over recent years. Minnesota’s infrastructure is the target of 3 million attacks per day, but it’s not the volume of attacks that has Clyborne concerned, it’s the quality. “Cyber threats are growing more sophisticated, more skilled, more organized and more professional,” she said.

2. IT Leadership Transformation Is Necessary

The State of Colorado is making a big investment into its people. In 2019, it is launching a new managers leadership and development program that will help first-time bosses set priorities for their employees and hold them more accountable for their performance. “For years, IT was just focused on technology, they missed the management piece,” said Ramona Gomoll, Chief People Officer for the State of Colorado. “Now, we are trying to reverse course and really lean into our management side of the house.”

3. Digital Engagement Reimagined

The State of Tennessee is focused on improving their digital front door. “Citizens don’t care about the behind the scenes mechanics,” said Stephanie Dedmon, Chief Information Officer for the state of Tennessee. “They want to get to the services they need as quickly as possible on whatever device is easiest for them. Tennessee has invested in new mobile interfaces and applications to make the digital access easier for citizens.

So, while Maine has its lobster and Maryland its crabs, Michigan has Tim Allen and New York and California have pretty much every other celebrity, each state does share one common directive: put the citizen first.

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