I just finished my briefing tour, which touched Washington DC and five state capitals. I had a lot of great interactions with government CIOs, state secretaries, IT leaders and PR officers. In almost all cases I found great interest on both topics, as well as pretty typical patterns about how to face problems and opportunities.
These were the main findings.
Government 2.0: Still in its infancy
- There is a fairly good understanding of open government and what it entails. People are familiar with open data initiatives and data.gov in particular, but tend to share the view that their main benefit is transparency and that citizens are the main beneficiaries.
- At the same time, there is limited appreciation of how open government can help improve efficiency of government operations, and how it should be moved from being a political priority to comply with to becoming an essential tool in the normal course of business.
- Security is still seen by many as an insurmountable obstacle to a broad deployment of social networking tools.
- Social media policies are far less developed than I would expect at this stage. Some clients mentioned that such policies are still at a draft stage, and they do entirely focus on risk minimization rather than value creation.
- I had the impression that states, through their CIO association, may not be leveraging as much as they could some of the excellent work done at the federal level by the GSA.
Although everybody seemed to agree with the importance of moving toward employee-centricity, very little that is happening in that space.
Cloud computing: Still confusing
- Everybody is interested in cloud computing and is somewhat looking into plausible options, with an unsurprising focus on email as well as storage as a service.
- Most people seemed surprised when looking at examples of where cloud is being piloted, or used, in mission critical situations, and how it is possible to decouple portions that can be hosted in the public cloud, from those that need to stay on premises.
- Preoccupation about security and compliance were expressed by quite a few, and there seem to be quite some expectations that the FedRAMP process may benefit states, although the timeline for its completion may be affected by the current budgetary uncertainties.
- The potential tensions between centralized or shared IT organizations and their clients caused by cloud computing emerged in a couple of cases.
- There is great demand for framework contracts that would help different state and local agencies address the market with well structured and common requests for information, quotation or proposals. This is another area where I would welcome greater cooperation between federal, state and local government, and where international cooperation (mostly with the UK and the Australian federal and state governments) would be very beneficial.
I doubt that we will see major “strategic” migrations into the cloud in the short term. Government IT organizations need to mature their thinking about how to deal with cloud just as an additional sourcing option, rather than something new and revolutionary, hence leveraging their experience from managing service vendors.