State CIOs Say Procurement Problems Hobble Innovation

Cumbersome and risk-averse procurement processes hold back state and local CIOs' efforts to improve services, finds NASCIO survey.
Top 10 Government IT Innovators Of 2013
Top 10 Government IT Innovators Of 2013
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Under pressure to improve service delivery and cut operational costs, state CIOs are seeking ways to integrate management initiatives across their states and collaborate with other branches of state government and with local governments, according to new survey released Monday by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO).

However, cumbersome and risk-averse procurement processes are hindering their efforts to innovate and deploy new IT services, making procurement a top concern for most state CIOs, the 2013 annual state CIO survey revealed.

NASCIO's study, "The Enterprise Imperative: Leading Through Governance, Portfolio Management and Collaboration," was done in partnership with TechAmerica, an association of technology companies, and consulting firm Grant Thornton.

The survey found that 63% of states now use a formal enterprise IT portfolio management process, compared to about 43% in NASCIO's 2010 poll of CIOs. An indication of the effectiveness of this approach is that about half of CIOs have used this process to halt or cancel a project -- or to implement an action plan to get one back on track.

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While almost all states have formal oversight practices to manage large projects, only 44% believed that those practices are effective or very effective. According to the researchers, CIOs consider the two key drivers of effective oversight to be: 1. statewide oversight bodies enforcing a consistent approach across the state, and 2. statewide project management offices with responsibility for managing large IT projects.

Researchers also concluded from the results that current IT procurement processes are not working to generate best value in a timely manner. Sixty percent of CIOs believe their IT procurement process is either somewhat effective or very ineffective. The most frequently cited concerns are the length of time required to complete an acquisition and the risk-averse nature of the procurement process that often smothers innovation.

According to the CIOs, the most desired procurement reforms are better training for acquisition staff, more opportunity for negotiation during the procurement process, and development of standard terms and conditions for cloud and software-as-a-service offerings.

About three-quarters of CIOs have cross-jurisdictional collaboration on their strategic agendas and another 20% are considering it. In fact, 88% of executive branch agencies participate in some form of IT shared services model, mostly network services, data center hosting and information security. Governance (69%), turf (58%) and cost sharing (52%) continue to be significant barriers to cross-government collaboration.

The study also found that states continue to adopt cloud services; 68% of CIOs said their states have some applications in the cloud and are considering others. Another 6% said their states are already "highly invested" in cloud services. Still, researchers said, laws and policies on issues such as storing data outside a state's boundaries continue to be a hurdle to cloud adoption.

Overall, the survey demonstrated that enterprise strategies are starting to propel reform in the delivery of state IT services, officials said.

"While CIOs continue to face a wide variety of challenges in the effective delivery of technology services, the reforms they are driving consistently embrace a common philosophy: adopt an enterprise vision, drive enterprise thinking and implement enterprise solutions," said Doug Robinson, executive director of NASCIO.

"Whether it is IT shared services, security vulnerability monitoring or software-as-a-service, many of the most critical initiatives underway today require an enterprise-wide approach in order to be effective," he added.