Legislative Information Technology Priorities 2016

10/4/2016

Image of a circuit board with the word "security" over it Security ranks as the most important legislative technology management priority in 2016, according to the results of a poll of key legislative information technology CIOs and managers in state legislatures.

Developing new legislative applications (e.g., bill drafting, bill status, committee systems, etc.), ranked as the number two technology management priority, followed by developing or refining systems to enable a paperless environment.

Keeping up with security threats and new technologies and finding and retaining skilled IT staff are among the biggest challenges facing legislative IT leaders, along with limited budgets. 

Survey Overview

The 2015-16 Information Technology Issues Subcommittee of the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee is charged with “providing an annual report on the state of technology in legislatures, which shall include anticipated technological advances.”

To identify current and anticipated legislative technology projects, key legislative information technology contacts (CIOs, IT directors or managers) in all 50 states were sent an online survey in July 2016. Thirty-three contacts in 28 states responded[1] and identified the top IT priorities and challenges they will face in the next one to three years.

Note:

[1]  Respondents included 27 contacts in central IT offices and six in IT offices that serve only one chamber.

Legislative Information Technology Priorities

When asked which of several named projects would be considered a priority in the next few years, respondents ranked their importance as follows:

The most important projects were:

  • Combating security threats, taking increased security measures.
  • Developing new legislative applications (e.g., bill drafting, bill status, committee systems, etc.).
  • Developing or refining systems to enable a paperless environment.
  • Adapting legislative websites for mobile devices.
     

Somewhat important projects included:

  • Developing or supporting tools for online citizen engagement.
  • Providing technical management of or support for members’ personal mobile devices (BYOD).
  • Supporting data analysis and visualization tools.
  • Developing customized mobile apps for mobile devices.

 

The least important projects were:

  • Moving to a cloud computing environment (both email in the cloud (e.g., Office 365, Google) and external or hybrid document cloud solutions (e.g., Google Docs, Dropbox)).
  • Developing or supporting collaboration tools.

Legislative Priorities in Context

Legislatures, like other government and private sector organizations, are subject to increasingly sophisticated attacks by cyber criminals, and combating those threats continues to be priority for all sectors. Security concerns ranked highest in other surveys of priorities of government IT professionals. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ (NASCIO) “State CIO Priorities for 2016” [1] ranked security and risk management as a top priority for its members, as did the Public Technology Institute’s annual poll of local government IT executives.[2]

In contrast, while NASCIO members in the same survey ranked cloud services as the second-highest priority, legislative IT leaders ranked moving to the cloud as a much lower priority for the next few years. This lower priority ranking, however, may be due to respondents indicating they have already completed cloud-related projects or that they have decided not to move to the cloud at this time.

Middle range priorities reflect ongoing and essential functions within legislatures—building and refining legislative applications, moving toward a more paperless environment and managing the proliferation of mobile devices.

Adapting legislative websites and apps for mobile use and providing support for mobile devices also continue as important projects for legislative IT professionals.

The survey results also reflect two areas of growing importance for legislatures: developing or supporting tools for data analysis and visualization and for online citizen engagement.

Notes:

[1]  State CIO Priorities for 2016, National Association of State Chief Information Officers, Nov. 10, 2015.

[2] Top Ten Local Government Technology Management and Application Priorities for 2016, Public Technology Institute, February 2016.

Challenges for Legislative Information Technology Offices

Legislative IT leaders find keeping up with security threats and new technologies, recruiting and retaining skilled IT staff, and limited budgets to be their biggest challenges.  

Less challenging for these managers is getting support from legislative leadership or upper management—likely a reflection of the integral role technology plays within legislatures today.

When asked to identify the issues that are most or least challenging, respondents’ replies were as follows:

 

Respondent Replies

 

Very challenging Challenging Not challenging Total # of Responses

 

(Number of responses)

Limited budgets

5

21

7

33

Finding/retaining skilled IT staff

13

14

5

32

Keeping up with changing/new technologies

8

20

4

32

Keeping up with security threats

15

17

1

33

Getting support/attention from legislative leadership or upper management

4

14

15

33

 

 

The July/August 2016 edition of State Legislatures magazine highlights “3 Things IT Staff Want You to Know.” Legislative IT staff know that the priorities and projects highlighted above “aren’t just “IT projects”—they are business projects that use technology to improve legislative operations and foster citizen involvement in government.” They also are critical to protecting the integrity of legislative data, and they are core to the institution. 

Additional Resources