Creating value while leading change

Creating value while leading change

Hardik Bhatt, CIO, State of Illinois

Hardik Bhatt, CIO, State of Illinois

From Industrial Revolution, to Internet Revolution, to the current Connected Revolution, every major economic revolution has been shorter, faster and has created more value. For a public sector organization, where costs are concentrated and benefits are diffused, it is crucial to invest in the right areas to maximize value creation. This requires leading major change, with technology frequently at the forefront.

“Applying business leadership acumen and principles to government is key to value creation”

Any new leader of a technology organization has less time than his or her predecessors to strategize, evaluate and implement changes that create value and create it quickly. The State of Illinois (henceforth “the State”) is on this transformation journey with technology leading, in creating major change and new value at a pace never before experienced in government.


Independent and isolated, the different State organizations created over 80 technology silos without common standards or platforms, with systems dating back to 1974. Common business practices of strategic focus and ROI have been largely missing. The IT labor force is over 90% unionized. Against this backdrop, the State is on an accelerated transformation journey of consolidation and modernization, bringing systems and practices into this century. As a whole, the goal is to leapfrog 45 years (1974 through 2019) in the next 4 years. This drives a shift in mindset from process, activities and internal viewpoints, to value results, speed and customer centricity. An IT leader’s perspective must change from operations management to business leadership. For the State, this involves three critical steps:

1. Improving the business of Information Technology (IT)

2. Improving the business of State using IT

3. Becoming the Smartest State using Internet of Things and Smart Cities solutions

Step 1: Improving the Business of Information Technology

The private sector thinks in terms of 90 day quarters. The State is accelerating this by breaking every project into 75-day milestones. This has brought agility, a sense of urgency and a focus on delivering customer value.  

Within first two 75-day cycles, over 50 critical, high value initiatives started. They fall into four categories:

a. Transformation: High impact projects fall into this category.  

     i. An Enterprise Resource Planning system implementation will consolidate many business functions into a single unified system. Currently, these are in 400+ disparate systems.  

     ii. IT resources are being centralized under a single organizational entity. This will create a 2,000person, $850m organization, focused on customer-centric and agile service delivery.

 b. Operational Efficiency: Standardized enterprise Key Performance Indicators are defined and measured, enabling swift focus on demonstrable operational improvements. A performance dashboard is collaboratively reviewed with senior State leadership at bi-monthly joint working sessions .  

 c. Governance: Major IT programs are now under a uniform governance umbrella. A strategic, enterprise view and decision making construct is in place, ensuring investing for long term customer value, cost reduction, service improvement and return on investment.  

 d. Collaboration: With 50+ CIOs across various state agencies, talent is in abundance and pockets of innovation exist everywhere. This is leveraged to accelerate delivery of business value and drive innovation. There are 11 CIO working groups building executable enterprise strategies in Mobility, Cloud, GIS, Analytics, Cyber-security and other areas.

Step 2:  Improving Business of the State Using IT

Today’s generation is either sleeping or online. Old school, paper based and fragmented processes must become streamlined, automated, span the enterprise and center on the customer experience. To that end, the State is investing in SMAC: Security, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud.  

Security: For most, S in SMAC is about social. For the State, the focus is on Security. The State’s Chief Information Security Officer and his team, in new and empowered positions, are aggressively focusing on processes, controls and awareness while addressing major technology vulnerabilities. Key public safety leaders are collaborating as never before in governing the program.

Mobility: The State considers mobile as the premier development platform, both for citizen-mobility and workforce mobility. One example of many, a case management pilot under development, will bring an estimated 80 percent work for case workers on mobile platform eliminating paper and delays stemming from inefficient manual processes.  

Analytics: The State is looking to turn petabytes of data in various systems into actionable, valuable wisdom that can drive massive impact. For example, Healthcare and Human Services (HHS) is consolidating data from nine HHS agencies and the IT department, creating comprehensive and holistic views of each customer. This will drive better outcomes in citizen health and human services while reducing overall costs.

Cloud: Lastly, with a state-of-the-art 22,000 square foot data center and existing contracts with Cloud and SaaS providers, the State is building a hybrid-cloud framework to improve efficiency for technology infrastructure management.

Step 3: Becoming the Smartest State with the Use of IoT and Smart Cities Solutions These efforts will bring the state on par with other large organizations. Being current is not enough. To become a global leader, Illinois is using the Internet of Things and global Smart Cities solutions to become the smartest state. This will exponentially increase the value of the state to citizens and businesses.

A Smart State amplifies the Smart Cities movement in three ways:

1. Improves Efficiency and Effectiveness of State Government: Smart States, like Smart Cities, have broad goals of data-driven digital transformation, but with greater scale and impact. For example, significant improvements can be made in healthcare via TeleMedicine and TeleHealth, and correctional and justice systems via TeleVisitation and TeleJustice. Public safety services through sensors and video-based analytics. Drivers benefit from real-time traffic information through connected transportation corridors. Big data analytics will significantly eliminate waste, fraud and abuse and provide a high return on taxpayer investment.

 2. Supports and Influences Smart Cities within the State: States, with their broad policy authority, can create large-scale initiatives that can boost a smart school district or a smart city within its jurisdiction, and enable 21st century education, job creation, and innovation.  

 3. Connects Smart Cities to Build a Smart Region: Smart City solutions are of limited value in areas with lower density populations. A Smart State can connect and leverage multiple localized Smart City initiatives to create a smart region that is inclusive and more beneficial to everyone in the State.  

The State has already defined the IoT baseline and brought a public, private, academic and philanthropic sector advisory board together to launch the initiative. By early next year (during the 4th 75-day cycle), Smarter Illinois will adopt an executable strategy and begin expanding the program throughout the state.


Change is accelerating. Applying business leadership acumen and principles to government is key to value creation. Externalize the enterprise, and proactively join, connect and catalyze the ecosystem it is in for the benefit of all.The State has partnered with major local corporations, incubators, technology companies, university and community college systems to drive change at all levels and dimensions. The private sector is enthusiastically partnering to make the State of Illinois efficient, accessible and globally competitive once again.

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