Fresh off a week of high intensity conversations at NASCIO 2015, Patrick Loughlin, Regional Director, Central and West State and Local Government and Education at NetApp, sat down with GovDataDownload to talk about the event, the major trends and developments, and share his impressions about how state CIOs are meeting the challenges of operating complex IT ecosystems in an era of budget constraints and ever-increasing expectations. Based on the conversations he had at the conference and what he observed during the many roundtable sessions Loughlin foresees exciting times ahead for State CIOs as they focus on IT consolidation, embrace disruptive technologies, and leverage IT to drive mission success.
GovDataDownload (GDD): What were the big trends you saw at NASCIO 2015?
Patrick Loughlin (PL): The NASCIO conference is always a fantastic event and this year was no exception. The format of the conference, with an abundance of roundtables, really enables state IT leaders to share their experiences, develop best practices, and it promotes true collaboration. Where I saw the most intense focus was in the areas of data center efficiency, cooperative purchasing and implementation of enterprise applications – like enterprise resource planning (ERP). But overall, conference attendees were buzzing and tweeting about embracing disruption, both in terms of leadership and technology.
GDD: What does embracing disruption mean to a state CIO? Come to think of it how would you define disruptive leadership and technology?
PL: Let’s start with being a disruptive leader. The CIOs who were directing this discussion talked about how they were changing their roles from being the ‘senior IT person’ who reported into the financial or operations unit of an agency, to being a facilitator working across the entire agency and, in many cases, outside the agency too, to bring in all relevant stakeholders from the Governor’s office, the state legislature, and often times peers in federal, state, and local agencies too. In taking on this role, the CIO becomes a business partner, responsible for more than IT and is an integral part of the team setting the vision for the agency. While this might sound pithy, shifting the perception of IT from that of an expensive budget line item to a tool that facilitates the mission of the agency – be it in health and human services, public justice and safety, or whatever the case may be – is a significant, and yes, disruptive, change.
In terms of technology, I understand disruption in terms of those tools that facilitate optimization, the destruction of silos, and collaboration. But a key thing to remember is that disruption isn’t about ripping out and stripping away systems that are already in place, but instead leveraging existing investments to get more out of them.
The State of California is one of the leading disruptors both from the perspective of vision and technology use. Using their cloud solution, CalCloud, California is creating opportunities for agencies to share services, facilitate data portability, reduce operating costs, and State CIO, Carlos Ramos, does a terrific job sharing his team’s experiences and best practices at events like NASCIO, and in the broader public sector IT community.
GDD: Where are state CIOs investing their attention and their budgets?
PL: I want to approach this question from three different angles, first an administrative priority, then at a functional priority, and finally from a technology perspective.
At the administrative level, state CIOs are getting creative with procurement. They’re examining different ways of sourcing, contracting, and purchasing. They’re banding together to create joint purchasing agreements with vendors and systems integrators to improve leverage, decrease costs, and generally effect better outcomes.
In terms of a functional priority, business continuity and disaster recovery services (BCDR) are receiving a great deal of attention from CIOs and a sizeable portion of state IT budgets. We all know that the weather is getting wilder and that public safety issues – from riots to terrorist threats – are a feature of our lives like never before, and that because of the way we’re interconnected in this day and age we need government agencies and services to function seamlessly during these critical moments. There are various technologies that help bolster BCDR operations – most importantly being able to leverage the cloud for data storage and retrieval – but in the end it’s streamlining services through IT consolidation that will help states be resilient in times of crisis.
In terms of investing in technology, considering both the time and money involved, state CIOs are looking to the cloud, in particular building a data fabric that leverages the strengths of both the public and private cloud, aka the hybrid cloud. CIOs who are successful with the hybrid cloud realize many benefits such as enabling data center consolidation, lowering costs, and enabling data portability, among others. Hybrid cloud infrastructures also better facilitate shared services models and help IT organizations go further along the IT consolidation journey by enabling projects that deliver not just SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS cloud services, but also XaaS, or “everything as a service.”
From what I observed at NASCIO, CIOs are most interested in hybrid cloud solutions and building the data fabric that will enable them to have private clouds in a public, or shared, environment. The main appeal of this hybrid approach is to offer the data security of a private cloud, while taking advantage of the agility, innovation, and cost savings of the public cloud. For my money, hybrid cloud is where CIOs will, and should, be investing their IT budgets. Along with data center consolidation and optimization it’s an area where there are great opportunities to drive efficiencies and cost savings.
GDD: Thank you, Patrick for sitting down with us today. We’ll look forward to the update from the NASCIO Annual Conference in the fall, as well as updates from you throughout the year on the issues that matter to state, local, and education IT leaders.