I was honored and humbled this year to be nominated to the Advisory Board for the State of Texas’ State Strategic Plan (SSP) on Technology. It was an interesting experience and I look forward to seeing the end product come out later this year. Importantly, Jeff Reichman played a much larger role on the advisory board after I moved away in March, so he certainly has more perspective on the matter versus my observations from afar (here’s a post he authored not long ago too).
Without giving anything away, here’s my take on the role of the advisory board, the process, and the general direction I believe the plan will go based on my observations.
Role of the advisory board
The advisory board is not responsible for authoring the report, making decisions on its strategic direction, or serving in an approving or editing role. We were a group of individuals from varied backgrounds relating to public sector technology.
We were charged with:
- Providing our thoughts on technology trends relevant to government
- Advising on content for the survey of government technology executives and IRM managers
- Reviewing and commenting on the themes identified for the strategic plan.
After nomination to the advisory board, we were engaged in a number of ways in the process.
- Participate in facilitated gathering of Advisory Board members to brainstorm public sector IT challenges, opportunities, and emerging trends
- Provide comments on questions for survey of 150+ IT executives, IRM managers, and technical staff on tech challenges and trends
- Submit our thoughts/feedback on results of the survey (see end of post for my thoughts)
- Participate in webinar reviewing results of the survey
- Meet virtually as advisory board to discuss DIR findings and the direction the State of Texas team is likely to propose
- Provide comments on technology challenges, examples relevant to recommendations, and ideas on the role that Texas DIR can play statewide
Direction for the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan on Technology
Some of the technology challenges that the public sector is facing are nothing new, and unlikely to go away soon. For instance: lack of sufficient funding, difficulty in recruiting and maintaining technical skills and resources, dealing with complicated procurement regulations (and occasional trouble with political involvement), and ineffective PMO practices and governance within decentralized government bureaucracies. Some of the strategic plan themes that DIR told us about definitely relate to these always important issues.
In addition, there were also new-ish technologies and trends that were high on the State Strategic Plan radar for the DIR team. These emerging tech themes were generally related to:
- Digital gov
- Open data
- Data management and big data
- Cyber security
- Resilience and disaster response (thanks to the Rockefeller foundation for bringing “resilience” back into our lexicon)
Even if the general population of IT execs and managers weren’t all yet thinking about them, I’m glad to see the DIR team was thinking about today/tomorrow’s issues and tech.
All that said, I feel like collaboration and culture change were hugely correlated to the challenge and/or solution in almost every theme. You will definitely see collaboration in the report when it’s released.
But, it’s possible you may not. To restate my disclaimer, we as advisory board members are not authoring or reviewing report content. The above are strictly my observations based on a selection of emails and experiences with the advisory board, and I could be completely off base. =)
Regardless, it will be fantastic to see the report when it’s released later this year. It was definitely an interesting process to be a part of. Moreover, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with the team of smart and passionate change agents at the State level in DIR, and to play a small bit role in developing the plan for the coming four years.
What Happens After the Report?
This is the most important question for me. Often in government we can get incredibly bogged down in the analysis and planning in an attempt to create a plan that will satisfy all, and which will mitigate as many risks as possible. Unfortunately, we often over-plan and under-deliver.
We promise things we can’t fund or execute on, or that we’re not actually responsible for. We plan for so long that when the plan is released, the objectives are no longer relevant. Despite being publicly focused and delivering our services to our citizens, we often use outdated methods for engaging our internal partners and external stakeholders (or don’t engage them at all). And then we start the next planning process.
It is absolutely critical who will be involved on the implementation (across agencies, within agencies, and outside government), and how they will go about working on these issues/projects. In my opinion any of the objectives discussed in the planning process are wholly achievable, although certainly not all of them, and not many if we try to do everything.
I speak only for myself now. I of course look forward to seeing the State Strategic Plan, but I’m much more interested in the execution of the strategy. To the extent I’m able to help, I’m happy to remain engaged and to help where I can.
The survey had over 100 questions and received over 150 responses. Approximately half the responses were from agency executive directors, presidents and CFO’s. Half were from Information Resource Managers. A handful came from technical staff or other categories. The survey was administered to leadership and IT/IRM staff separately.
Those taking the survey were asked to rate the relevance of 60+ different topics. I combined the results of their responses to get my own personal view of the top priorities across the board. Below are the top ~30 highly and moderately relevant issues according to the survey respondents:
High Relevance to both Executives and IT/IRM’s
- Employee recruitment and retention
- Inter-agency collaboration
- IT Security
- Vendor Management
- Cost Effective Solutions – Managing budget reduction and identifying strategies for savings to deal with budget constraints.
- Cybersecurity Awareness – Educating end-users on cybersecurity and secure computing behavior in order to reduce potential security incidents.
- Data Management – The function of organizing data, and the administration and standards for defining data and document management.
- Disaster Recovery/Continuity of Operations Planning – Planning, testing, and readiness to ensure critical government IT services continue in the event of a disaster or a disruption of normal operations
- IT Workforce – Ensuring the organization recruits, retains or trains IT staff to have necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to perform functions effectively.
- IT Governance – Responsibility for and accountability of decisions made to ensure IT sustains and extends the organization’s strategies and objectives.
- IT Strategic Planning – Incorporating business objectives in IT decisions by setting the technological direction and developing strategies to achieve the desired end state.
- Risk Management – The identification, analysis, evaluation, and alternative treatment of risk or loss for programs and operations.
- IT Procurement Process Improvement – Effective procurement process that take into account the complexities and subtleties of obtaining IT goods and services.
- Cloud Services – Scalable, elastic IT-enabled capabilities provided as a service and connected through internet technologies. (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS)
- Identity Access Management – The security discipline that enables the right individuals to access the right resources at the right times for the right reasons.
- Data Sharing – The ability to share the same or similar data resources with multiple applications, users, and partners.
Relevance Level Lower, or High for Only One Group
- Connectivity – Broadband, interoperability, and the capacity for the interconnection of platforms, systems, and applications.
- Data Loss Protection – A set of technologies and inspection techniques used to classify information content contained within an object — such as a file, email, packet, application or data store — while in storage, in use or in transit.
- Server Virtualization – Software that divides the physical server into multiple virtual environments
- Data Retention and Storage – Identifying and developing processes to preserve data in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
- Legacy Modernization – The remediation and replacement of outdated information systems and components.
- Project Management and Oversight – Ensuring IT projects are completed on time and on budget through the implementation of project management practices and oversight
- Enterprise Applications – Applications designed to integrate computer systems that run all phases of an enterprise’s operations to facilitate cooperation and coordination of work across the enterprise.
- Workflow Automation – Approach that enables automated tasks (e.g., the automation of steps in a marketing campaign or a sales process) to be performed.
- Customer Relationship Management – A system for managing interactions with current and future customers, often involving technology to automate and synchronize customer service processes.
- Mobile Device Management – Software distribution and policy, inventory, security and service management for smartphones and media tablets.
- Digital Service Delivery – Providing access to public services through the Internet.
- Mobile Applications – Applications tailored for mobile devices.
- Mobile Workforce – Enabling employees to conduct business operations and job tasks from remote locations in a secure manner.
- Capacity On-Demand – Ability to quickly allocate computing resources when necessary without disruption to operations
- Fulfilling requirements with extremely limited resources
Additional State Strategic Plan Resources
How the State Strategic Plan fits in with other DIR technology planning processes
Want to see the current 2014-2018 Plan?