Of course, laptops are only one part of a seamless remote working infrastructure. Adequate bandwidth, enhanced security and robust virtual meeting tools are essential. In Tennessee, that meant quadrupling bandwidth, adding two-factor authentication, and supporting a 500% increase in virtual meeting activity compared to the prior year.
In addition to remote working, managing state responses to COVID-19 put heavy burdens on CIOs and their staff. With a public desperate for information, states had to set up chatbots, prepare FAQs, and roll out other tools to respond to millions of virus-related and economic inquiries.
In Ohio, many COVID-related efforts came together via the state’s existing InnovateOhio platform, an InnovateOhio initiative, and an executive order (EO) from 2019 that focuses on IT innovation. “We got a jump on dealing with the pandemic thanks to the cloud-smart strategy,” says Rodgers, “and the EO included a data-sharing component that helped us pull together crucial data.”
Cloud technology was also useful in Tennessee, according to McInnes. “We were able to quickly scale our security program as remote working ramped up, thanks to a cloud-licensing program.”
In North Dakota, cloud technology offered similar benefits. “When our legacy VPN struggled, we implemented a cloud-based solution within 48 hours” to support remote working, Riley says.
The downside of muscle memory
North Dakota wasn’t the only state with VPN-related issues. Colorado’s Richman also reports that the state’s VPN is “limping along” amid a complex, non-centralized technology environment.
That said, the biggest struggles for CIOs during the past year weren’t purely technological. The most significant challenge was managing the interplay between government services and public expectations.
“Even though the technology was successfully deployed, [North Dakota’s] government was not prepared to function in a telework environment,” says Riley. A lack of flexibility was sand in the gears for operations. Rigid state rules around financials, procurement, deployment timetables and more continued to apply even amid unprecedented circumstances.