Challenges & Opportunities
The State of Minnesota faces significant economic, social and technological policy challenges in the next biennium and beyond that will influence its direction, goals and priorities for information technology. The following factors are areas of concern, but also of opportunity, for the State of Minnesota, and for Minnesota IT Services going forward.
Technology advances quickly, priorities shift, and new challenges constantly emerge. To be successful in achieving its mission of continuous improvement, efficiency, reliability and capability in information technology, the State of Minnesota will need to look beyond the imperatives of the moment and plan for the future. The purpose of this section is to share the early warning signs arising from our management of the state’s technology portfolio, as well as to identify areas in which investment and strategy will be required to meet the intent of the law. MNIT’s commitment remains to work, wherever possible, within the granted authority and partnerships to address them systematically.
The vast majority of cybersecurity priorities in this plan address shortcomings in executive branch defenses that have accrued from years of underinvestment. We are seeing increasing cyber-attacks on both state and federal government, and these attacks are growing in frequency and sophistication. Citizens expect government leaders to protect their data, regardless of whether it is in the custody of state or local government, other branches, constitutional offices, or higher education institutions. Citizens also expect government leaders to collaborate to use taxpayer resources judiciously, particularly in costly and high-risk areas like cybersecurity. As Minnesota IT Services works to build the cybersecurity capabilities that citizens expect, we also see an opportunity to extend these services and share threat intelligence with other government entities. We are calling this future opportunity the Minnesota Government Information Sharing and Analysis Organization, and we hope to begin its planning and development over the next five years. Given the cost of cybersecurity solutions, extremely high demand for talent and expanding threat landscape, the success of all Minnesota government entities will be incumbent on how well we share resources, tools, talent and information to address threats and protect the people of our state.
IT Modernization (accrued IT debt)
It is critical that Minnesota IT Services’ leaders, state agency partners, and policymakers examine the impact of continued operations with aging legacy IT systems. These discussions must include the impact of aging IT systems on business operations and efficiency, information security, and the ability of state government to engage effectively with Minnesotans in the digital age.
In our efforts to build and manage the State of Minnesota’s technology portfolio, Minnesota IT Services has found a substantial gap in agency technology environments, precipitated by disproportionate and disparate IT investments made by various agencies over the past few decades. Such discrepancies leave some state IT operations underfunded and thus unable to provide the most efficient and effective solution for Minnesotans. Of particular concern is the age of legacy systems and infrastructure in Minnesota, including some major systems upon which the public depends. A large amount of state IT equipment has completed normal life cycles and carries security and business continuity risks to operate. These assets need to be refreshed in order to maintain effectiveness and provide further efficiencies for state government. As systems reach the end of life or as new technologies that can improve government services become cost effective, the state will need to refresh and reinvest.
Before investing in modernization, Minnesota must fully understand the scale and scope of where this is occurring. Today we finally have the data points necessary to begin to understand the breadth and depth of the full problem. It is important for all state leaders to recognize that modernization will carry significant costs.
As IT leaders, we hope to lead the state in investing strategically and wisely to ensure critical services are delivered, while constantly watching for opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce overall costs.
Minnesota has an opportunity to not only upgrade technology, but to revisit the whole process of how government conducts business and to find new ways to leverage existing technology and strategies to solve broader problems in our state.
Building our technology workforce and finding innovative solutions to carry out the business of the state are key to Minnesota’s success going forward. In the coming years, Minnesota will face major challenges to retain its quality workforce and attract new staff. The State of Minnesota also faces a major wave of retirements of highly proficient technical specialists in the near future. There are more jobs for skilled workers in the tech sector in our state than there are the people to fill them.
As we strive to build an agile and equitable workforce environment that attracts talented people and builds strong information technology careers, Minnesota must develop a recruiting model to train talent from entry level up and meet the challenge of a significant shift in our state workforce created by the retirement bubble.