There’s a reason ‘people and process’ come before ‘technology,’ Arizona CIO says

Arizona Chief Information Officer J.R. Sloan said attending to the "people" component of IT modernization can make projects successful.
J.R. Sloan (Scoop News Group)

A “people, processes and technology” framework that’s governed IT since the 1960s is ordered that way for good reason, Arizona Chief Information Officer J.R. Sloan told StateScoop in an interview Tuesday.

As government agencies across the nation upgrade their decades-old technology platforms — some of them capitalizing on what Sloan called a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity afforded by pandemic relief funding — a focus on people management is critical, he said.

“In government for a lot of these systems, we’re not breaking new ground,” Sloan said. “The technology’s there and can solve the problems, but aligning people and process ahead of time — those are the efforts that position your project to serve you not just immediately but into the future.”

He recalled a recent project in which his bureau, the Arizona Strategic Enterprise Technology Office, assisted another agency with an upgrade in which the vendor was using agile development methodology. Sloan said the people at that agency weren’t familiar with agile methodology and became frustrated with the vendor’s iterative approach.


“We found we had to do some on-premise training with that organization from the business side to help them understand if our vendor partners and the service groups are doing agile approaches to things, here’s how it’s going to show up,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to be thoughtful in how we engage all of the people that are involved in the processes.”

Considering people also comes in the form of considering their needs when designing new services, he said. Sloan said Arizona is preparing to launch a “one-stop” business portal, and while designing it his office was sure to test it on users like those who’ll end up using it, running focus groups and listening to feedback.

Talking to staff and managing expectations is also an important component of pulling off successful IT projects, which often rely on making major changes to realize their purported benefits, Sloan said.

“There’s a whole change management, organizational management component of that, which is it can be uncomfortable to tell people that the process you’ve been used to for some time is going to change,” he said. “[It can be challenging] to get teams to release themselves from the constraints they may have found within the current system.”

Colin Wood

Written by Colin Wood

Colin Wood is the editor in chief of StateScoop and EdScoop. He's reported on government information technology policy for more than a decade, on topics including cybersecurity, IT governance and public safety.

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