Priorities Season 4

Know your environments before consolidation, say state IT chiefs

Some states are looking back on IT consolidation projects and others are planning new ones, but for officials in the middle of consolidation, the most impressive realization is “how little you know about your own environments,” Kansas’ top technology official shares with StateScoop in the opening episode of season four of the Priorities podcast.

“As you start to get into that level of detail that you have to get into to make those migrations and how systems are integrated and interact with each other so you can move work families together instead of individual boxes, you uncover how things have been put together the course of the past 15-20 years in multiple individual silos,” says Lee Allen, Kansas’ chief information technology officer.

Adjusting course when new complications arise can push back deadlines, Allen says, which is why he advises taking the time up-front to get to know the state’s systems and avoid delays after the project has begun.

Joining Allen on the podcast is Yessica Jones, chief information officer for Arkansas, who recalls an incident in which an unfamiliar firewall configuration in an agency delayed her office’s progress on a project. She says that incident underscored the importance of detailed research into state systems and aligns with a need to build partnerships with other agencies.

“We want to work with them, but we want to understand their business, their risk, their concerns so that we can be ready when the systems integrator comes in, they’ll have an overview,” Jones says.

Kansas, which began moving toward a service-based IT model in 2015, is now aiming to complete data-center and service-desk centralization efforts by June 30.

Arkansas’ IT consolidation efforts are less mature, but now supported by a government-wide consolidation effort initiated by Gov. Asa Hutchinson last year. Being lumped into a centralized department tasked with transformation and shared services will embolden these efforts, Jones says.

Listen to season 4, episode 1 of the Priorities podcast to learn more about how both states are planning for more efficient IT environments that can support the missions of their partner agencies and integrate new technologies as they come along.

On the podcast:

  • Lee Allen, chief information technology officer, Kansas
  • Yessica Jones, chief information officer, Arkansas
  • Colin Wood, managing editor, StateScoop and EdScoop

Things to listen for:

  • Since 2015, Kansas has been moving away from an IT ownership model and is now wrapping up data-center-as-a-service and service-desk-as-a-service projects.
  • Allen says conversations about IT consolidation can outshine interest in new technologies.
  • Jones says consolidating state government should reduce the number of hurdles needed to get approval on things.
  • Jones says building trust with agencies is a critical step in IT consolidation.
  • Allen says having managed services changes how the state interacts with new vendors.
  • When state employees get nervous about big changes, Jones says transparency is a useful approach.

Produced in partnership with the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, Priorities dives deep into each of the top 10 priorities of state CIOs outlined in NASCIO’s annual list.