CIO: North Carolina tech all about ABCs


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With support for Microsoft Windows XP going offline in April of next year, Chris Estes, North Carolina’s chief information officer, is challenged as to what to do with its 42,000 computers that run on that operating system.

The simple answer is to bring in Windows 7 and go from there, but Estes wants to use the change as an opportunity to create a more streamlined approach that takes advantage of the work patterns of the state’s employees.

“We’re really looking at how our employees work, what applications they use, what devices they use, and systematically tracking that information,” Estes said in an interview with StateScoop. “We’re looking to create user profiles that fit into personas that categorize how someone works that will include a more structured application stack for them to use, allowing us to create a better customer experience.”

Accelerating customer centricity is one of Estes’ top priorities, along with balancing risk and collaborating as one information technology organization. Those goals fit into Governor Pat McCrory’s three E’s of state government: economy, education and efficiency, which have been Estes’ guiding principles since becoming CIO at the beginning of this year with the new administration.

One thing in particular that Estes wants to do is break down the silos of IT that exist across the state, mainly putting more services online.

“Our governor is big on customer service and bringing that to state government,” Estes said. “He asks, ‘Why can’t I get my fishing license at the DMV office?’ It’s things like that we need to think about. How can we collaborate IT to bridge those gaps to increase customer service for our citizens?”

Estes wants to find a balance between innovation and risk. A way he is doing that is collaborating with the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which is providing the space for an innovation center.

The center will allow the state to look at technologies before it purchases them through a competitive process, ensuring that the products do what they promise, but also to make sure it’s something state employees will actually use.

“Too often we buy products that we do not use to their full capability,” Estes said. “Along those lines, one of the things we’ve done is restructure our vendor agreements to make sure we only pay for what we use. It’s all part of trying to find efficiencies wherever we can.”

As for healthcare, Estes added that in the state’s Health and Human Services Department, there is work being done to deploy the new MISS system. The project went live on July 1 and will bring $3 million of savings to the state.

“We’re excited to get over that finish line,” Estes said.

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Chris Estes, North Carolina, Pat McCrory, State & Local News, States