The Unsettling State of State-Level IT Procurement

This post, written by David Wyld, originally appeared on Public Spend Forum

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) has released its annual survey of State CIOs, produced in association with TechAmerica, and Grant Thornton LLP. The fourth annual report, titled “The Enterprise Imperative: Leading Through Governance, Portfolio Management and Collaboration,” shares the perspective of CIOs from all 50 states and 4 U.S. territories. The report has some very positive news on a variety of fronts, including greater cross-agency collaboration and more enterprise-level initiatives, a sharp move to cloud-based solutions and services, and perhaps most importantly for contractors, an improved outlook on IT spending, in the wake of most states’ improved budgetary outlooks. However, one troubling area of the report is the CIOs’ perspectives on IT procurement, which they generally find to be slow, outmoded and so risk-averse as to impede innovation.

Overall, the NASCIO survey found that 51% of the state CIOs expressed that they were either very or somewhat dissatisfied with their state’s IT procurement processes—and quite tellingly, only 6% were highly satisfied with tech acquisition in their state. Sixty percent of the CIOs expressed the belief that their IT procurement processes were either very or somewhat ineffective, with again less than 10% saying that they had very effective tech acquisition processes in place. What caused such high levels of dissatisfaction with tech procurement amongst these state tech executives?

According to the NASCIO report, the CIOs reported that “the length of time required to complete a procurement and the risk-averse nature of the procurement process that often stymies innovation” were the most frequently cited complaints of the top state officials. As a group, the state IT heads also expressed concerns that the current contracting processes were “immature,” in that they did not have tech providers equally share risk with the government agencies on the success of IT projects. As such, the CIOs felt that the current state of affairs left the government falling short of truly partnering with tech providers on IT projects.

The CIO survey also asked the state IT heads what changes they would like to see to improve contracting for technology-related items and services. The NASCIO reported that the top five priorities for state CIOs were to:

  • Provide training to state staff involved with IT procurement so that they are better equipped to develop RFPs that balance risks between vendors and states.

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