Top Four 2021 State CIO Priorities

By Charles Castelly, SLED Analyst

The release of the Top Ten Priorities for State CIOs in 2021 in December by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), places digital government at the top of the list for the second year in a row. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of certain technologies by government as they look to provide quicker and more efficient services to citizens and employees.

Looking at the year ahead, state governments recognize that they will continue to need technology solutions that support digital modernization for applications that enable remote workforce accessibility and online interactions with citizens. Here are the top four technology priorities that CIOs are looking for:

(1) Cloud Solutions

With the migration of traditional in-person services online, cloud technologies are crucial to deliver services en masse. Cloud solutions allow agencies to operate more efficiently, delivering services to a larger number of citizens. However, agencies will need vendor assistance to help them through the migration process so that services are migrated seamlessly, with no loss in uptime.

(2) Legacy Application Modernization/Renovation

The growing cost of operating legacy applications is driving many states to look at how they can cut costs due to budget constraints. The biggest legacy applications are those that currently run on mainframes. One of the solutions being evaluated is mainframe-as-a-service. Finding talent that can perform the maintenance on their aging mainframes is costly and hard to find; outsourcing these functions will save money. Vendors who offer MaaS, should approach agencies with options to seamlessly outsource their mainframes, with no decrease in system availability — while saving them money too.

(3) Identity and Access Management

The volume of government benefit applications, such as unemployment, is at an all-time high. The application process has moved away from paper and now relies heavily on digital technologies. While online applications do provide a quicker data collection process, the downside is that identity verification is more difficult and there is no capability to physically verify identity sources. To combat this, agencies are increasingly adopting identity and access management tools to maintain record accuracy and prevent fraud. Vendors should work with agencies to provide solutions that will allow them to verify citizen identities and give them access to the right services.

(4) Robotic Process Automation

An influx of citizens requesting new services like unemployment insurance has led to dramatic increases in the number of questions agencies are receiving. Call centers were quickly overwhelmed, and agencies needed to find another way to handle the volume. Hiring additional staff was not an option and many agencies implemented chatbots to help answer simple questions, freeing up call center staff to handle more complicated requests. Their success has led agencies to evaluate other areas where robotic process automation can be leveraged. Agencies will be looking to vendors to show them where and how this emerging technology can help them save time and improve efficiency.


The accelerated pace of new technology adoption coupled with limited staffing resources to implement it means that states need assistance from vendors to serve as innovators, trusted advisors and program managers. Strong collaboration between vendors and the state customers they serve is needed now more than ever. This will be key to enhancing relationships and taking them to the next level.

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Tune in on February 18 to hear SLED Analyst Manager Rachel Eckert’s Market Intelligence briefing on SLED 101. Register here.

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