NASCIO midyear conference goes virtual; coronavirus victim

For only the second time since its founding in 1969 the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) has been forced to cancel its premier midyear conference that had been scheduled to meet next week just outside Washington, D.C. The last time NASCIO cancelled its annual conference was in New Orleans following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

NASCIO represents state chief information officers and information technology executives from the states, territories, and the District of Columbia. This year their event, like similar gatherings large and small across the country, fell victim to the impact of the novel coronavirus.

Nonetheless, the intrepid Doug Robinson, NASCIO’s executive director for the last 16 years, spoke with us this week about his organization, the effect of the pandemic on its membership, and most importantly, plans to substitute a virtual meeting for this spring’s conference on May 4-5 entitled the NASCIO Midyear 2020 Webcast Series. Registration closes today, April 30.

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NASCIO organization and growth

“We have 54 active CIO members in the public sector, those are our prime members. And we represent them and other IT executives and organizations within state governments who are focused on the public sector,” Robinson said. He was quick to point out, however, that NASCIO also has more than 100 corporate members, as well as nonprofits and other organizations that focus on IT. “State governments are our clear focus, but we advocate for IT in the public sector broadly,” he said.

Those 54 prime members, and their many CTO and CISO colleagues from all 50 states, plus DC, Guam and the Virgin Islands, along with 500 or more of their close corporate IT vendor friends were scheduled to gather the first week of May at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort & Convention Center just across the Potomac River from D.C. proper. Last year’s midyear conference was held at the same locale, and celebrated the association’s 50th anniversary. Robinson expected a new attendance record beating the more than 650 who went last year.

Within a matter of days following NASCIO midyear cancellation announcement on March 17, Robinson and his crack team huddled with executive committee officials headed up by its then president, North Carolina CIO Eric Boyette, to determine next steps. In early April it was announced the midyear conference would go virtual.

Webcast Series scheduled

“We can’t replicate the kind of a live conference, because obviously the huge value for our members is the networking and the collaboration and just the collegial nature, as you know, of the organization. It’s been its hallmark for many years,” Robinson said.

He explained that the organization, particularly through its programming committee’s work, had already developed significant content and confirmed speakers for the conference prior to cancellation.

“We pivoted and flipped pretty quickly and with executive committee leadership, the association decided to deliver content virtually,” Robinson said.

NASCIO will be hosting the Midyear 2020 Webcast Series beginning on Monday, May 4. The first three of the series are going to be focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, examining the CIO experience with one set of panelists from a number of states. It will include a diverse group of states and CIOs, presenting their perspectives on their experiences, best practices and lessons learned. Cybersecurity issues will be a key part of that, particularly interacting with local governments.

“We’re also going to focus on some other topics. I think one of the things that we’re going to talk about on Tuesday, May 5 is the fact that it’s not business as usual,” Robinson said. There have been significant process and technology innovations that have been brought forward during these challenging times. “So what are states doing, bringing in different stacks or redesigning very, very quickly?”

Future of life, work post-COVID

The webcast will be focused on what Robinson calls ‘the big return’. What will life and work really look like, post-COVID-19, when we all get back to that? It’s going to be very different depending on what state you’re in.

“What are the implications? What we’re hearing, on our weekly calls with our leadership, all states calls with CIOs, chief security officers and CTOs and others is that they see the return being much more difficult than the push out to remote work,” Robinson said.

He reports that these state CIOs and colleagues expect a very long returning-to-work process.

“I think there’s loads of uncertainty about how to bring back employees. We expect the technology organizations and the IT staff components to be some of the first state government folks back in a physical space. But is that really feasible right now? And how would they do that protocol?” Robinson queried.

NASCIO’s midyear web series will hopefully shed some light on these major questions.

Schedule of Events Midyear Webcast Series

Monday, May 4 | 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EST | Welcome & The State CIO Experience: Perspectives on COVID-19

  • Panel: Stephanie Dedmon, CIO, Tennessee | Jim Weaver, CIO, Washington | Curtis Wood, CIO, Massachusetts

Monday, May 4 | 4 – 5 p.m. EST | Stronger Together: State & Local Cybersecurity Collaboration

  • Panel: Maria Thompson, State Chief Risk Officer, North Carolina | Randy Cress, CIO, Rowan County, North Carolina | Maggie Brunner, Program Director, National Governors Association (NGA) | Meredith Ward, Director of Policy & Research, NASCIO

Tuesday, May 5 | 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. EST | Not Business as Usual: Technology and Process Innovations

  • Panel: Michael Leahy, CIO, Maryland | Nelson Moe, CIO, Virginia | Ed Toner, CIO, Nebraska | Jeff Wann, CIO, Missouri

Tuesday, May 5 | 3- 4 p.m. | The Path Forward: Life and Work After COVID-19

  • Panel: Mike Hussey, CIO, Utah | Calvin Rhodes, CIO, GAeorgia | Ervan Rodgers, CIO, Ohio | Rob Atkinson, President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF)

Corporate Member Session

Monday, May 4 | 2 – 3 p.m. EST | Corporate Member Exchange (all corporate members welcome)

  • State CIO Top Ten Priorities & State CIO Transitions with Doug Robinson, Executive Director, NASCIO
  • The View from a New State CIO with Tracy Doaks, CIO, North Carolina; Brom Stibitz, CIO, Michigan; and Jeff Wann, CIO, Missouri

Midyear Registration

  • Registration is open to all members in good standing
  • No registration fee
  • No limit on the number of participants per state/company/organization
  • Must register by Thursday, April 30