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Ask any state or local IT leader what their top priority is at any given moment, and they will tell you the same answer: cybersecurity.

In fact, for the past eight years, cybersecurity has topped the National Association of State Chief Information Officers' (NASCIO) annual top-ten list of policy and technology priorities facing state government.

The impact of the ongoing global health crisis on state and local government agencies has only further highlighted the importance of cybersecurity risk management, as well as digital government and cloud services for a remote hybrid workforce.

At WWT, we are growing a collaborative team of highly skilled state and local government technical consultants and customer advocates dedicated to building trusted and lasting partnerships with government entities of all sizes and scale. We understand the critical cybersecurity challenges at the state and local level (particularly among our customers based here with me, in Tennessee), and the ongoing battle in protecting critical infrastructure and constituent data among an ever-changing cyber landscape.

What NASCIO's latest findings have shown us is that what our state and local government customers here are anticipating in the upcoming year is just as applicable to the greater SLED market.

Below, we have taken a closer look at some of our anticipated priorities in Tennessee to share for consideration of our neighboring state and local agencies seeking ways to manage their IT enterprise and infrastructure.

Security transformation

As a consistently identified top priority by state and local IT leaders, it is vital to fully understand the role security plays in the mission-critical objectives of state and local government agencies.  

As the technical and digital maturity of the population continues to grow, the pressures and expectations for agencies to modernize are increasing at a rapid pace; as Tennessee's own State Chief Information Officer (CIO) Stephanie Dedmon has attested, "You can't afford not to modernize IT."

Modernizing state and local network security can simplify operations, improve visibility and reduce overall cyber risk, while ensuring the safe, efficient transmission of data.

Cloud migration

The overwhelming assumption by state CIOs is that work-from-home and remote work options will not only continue but expand. Here in Tennessee, Dedmon has already indicated that most of the workforce in the state will likely be working from home through the remainder of the current school year. This new working environment has led state CIOs to adjust and prioritize projects that deliver critical employee applications through expanded cloud services and cloud migration.

Facilitating a successful cloud migration requires a comprehensive strategy that incorporates an agency's technical environment and organizational structure in order to build the right multicloud architecture that enables state and local organizations to increase innovation and deliver transformational outcomes in service to the mission.

Maturing risk management

For most state and local government entities, the ability to demonstrate compliance directly correlates to the maturity of their cybersecurity program. State CIOs need to be able to rapidly take inventory and assess operational risk from configuration management, vulnerability assessments and operational procedures in order to build an effective baseline for a resilient cyber infrastructure.  

Maintaining good cyber hygiene means conducting regular, diligent assessments to measure the security capabilities of your organization and its ability to operate through various threats and vulnerabilities. After CIOs and CTOs understand where their agency holds the most risk, they can effectively develop a security architecture that builds a bridge between mitigating that risk and daily defense.  

Stakeholder engagement

State and local agencies are seeking more effective ways to engage stakeholders in delivering more innovative citizen services. 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.  

Customer relationship management (CRM) is seen as a rising priority for all of state agencies, and strong collaboration between vendors and the state customers they serve is needed now more than ever. In Tennessee, our state CIO wants to do a better job -- from a central state perspective -- in partnering with local governments, especially when it comes to security.

Security and risk management leaders need to enhance customer and stakeholder trust by implementing counter measures that minimize privacy risks. While no network is 100 percent secure, collaboration with your stakeholders to understand your environment within an unpredictable threat landscape and create an integrated security platform will certainly mature your program.

Service delivery management

The growing complexities and interdependencies between business and IT have raised the stakes for service delivery management. Without a flexible approach, companies pursuing digital transformation risk failure. Service providers who exclusively rely on traditional delivery methodologies can become disconnected from business planning, while those forever chasing the newest methodology risk overlooking proven practices that generate meaningful value.

At WWT, we customize our service delivery methodology for each engagement. Our teams have extensive experience managing multisite, complex IT deployments and follow a phased approach that consistently produces successful outcomes.

Adopting a flexible service delivery approach tailored to state and local needs optimizes how IT projects are developed and implemented to accelerate outcomes and reduce risk.

Transitioning to move forward

When discussing state CIO priorities going into 2020, Dedmon admitted that Tennessee has been a state in transition when it comes to adopting new technologies, particularly cloud services and data analytics.

"We've not been a cloud-first state… so we're working on a roadmap and a transition as to how we move to the cloud," Dedmon said. "Really working with our agencies to help them understand the benefits of data sharing and the capability of the analytical tools will really help us solve problems in a unique and different way."

Across all of public sector, 2021 will continue to be year of transition, as state and local agencies keep a keen eye on identified policy and technology priorities and continue to push their modernization efforts forward with through collaboration and innovation.