The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the sixth largest population in the United States and almost 80,000 state government employees. Providing government services in the post-recession era of decreased revenue streams is challenging, especially as citizens’ expectations change. The average Pennsylvanian doesn’t want to wait in line or spend hours searching local offices for paper documents. Residents expect elected and appointed officials to leverage technology to improve their services and reduce budgets.
As the deputy secretary of information technology and CIO (chief information officer) for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tony Encinias is at the center of it all. He advises senior members of the governor’s cabinet on all areas of IT. He is basically the state’s go-to tech guy for everything including strategy, policy development, implementation, and cyber security for Pennsylvania’s 47 agencies. Additionally, Encinias manages all procurements, which average about $1 billion each year.
Encinias says his interest in computers was sparked at an early age when his high school made basic computer programming available to its students. “We only had a few resources, but I saw what was possible with computers and knew it would be a big part of my future,” he recalls. He attended the University of Colorado on a ROTC scholarship, earned a degree in mathematics, and was commissioned in the US Navy where he completed a master’s degree in IT management at the United States Naval Postgraduate School. During his military career, Encinias led the eBusiness operations office for the Department of the Navy and later held executive office roles for one of four major data centers in the Department of Defense. In 2008, he accepted a role as Pennsylvania’s chief technology officer before Governor Tom Corbett appointed him CIO in late 2012.
Since then, Encinias has worked with his staff to combat a lack of resources in state government while harnessing technology to provide critical resources to the state and its civilians. “Technology is a big part of state government. It would be difficult or impossible to operate and meet the expectations of those we serve without continuously updating our technology usage,” he says. As technology evolves—and as citizens adopt new technologies more quickly—CIOs must keep up.
47 agency CIOs report to Encinias, and he encourages them to keep open minds. “Younger citizens do things differently than my parents and I did. We have to adjust, and the only way to do that is to leverage technology,” he says.
Encinias finds that Pennsylvanians generally don’t want to stand in line and wait for a person to help them. They want to conduct business via phone, tablet, or computer. They’re increasingly mobile. They don’t want to talk to people or deal with paper documents. In response, the state’s tech leaders are changing their approach dramatically.
During his tenure, Encinias has always looked for ways to automate processes by introducing technology. The state now has an online system through which citizens can submit tax reports to the Department of Revenue. Licensed drivers no longer have to stand in line at the Department of Transportation for renewals. The state’s new website (PA.gov) allows users to search for services, jobs, resources, and other information. “We’ve worked hard to make this experience easy for our users,” says Encinias, adding that the website renders to computers, tablets, and other mobile devices.
Next, the Office of Information Technology is pushing a citizen-centric approach and single-persona credentialing. To date, the state has 127 services available online—and Encinias doesn’t want to burden users with 127 different user names and passwords. He’s leading teams to leverage the credentials people use on a daily basis—such as Facebook or Google log-ins—to validate users and provide access to multiple Pennsylvania services. The project is on target for completion in mid to late 2015.
Most notably, the state of Pennsylvania is driving costs down through a seven-year cloud-services deal worth $681 million. The deal—the first in state government—consolidates state data centers and eliminates many capital expenditures. Encinias led a lengthy RFP (request for proposal) won by Unisys and created a contract that has an a-la-carte services scale. That means the Office of Information Technology can now buy and purchase services and capacity on demand instead of investing heavily in infrastructure and data centers.
“The process cuts out the cost of state-owned servers and storage as well as the maintenance and staff associated with running our own system,” Encinias says. State-owned systems require expensive refreshes every four to five years. The cloud solution should reduce overall spending by about 30 percent, but in addition to saving money, the program will allow leaders to plan accurately for budgets and IT requirements.
As technology continues to change state government, one of Encinias’ biggest challenges is getting public sector employees on board. “We’re changing the culture. I have to see it coming, respond, and coach others through the change,” he says. His office enjoys support from the governor’s office, and Encinias has found that the rest is all about communication. Instead of talking technology, he talks dollars and cents.
“There are real benefits to adopting the latest technology in state government,” he says. “It’s good for citizens and it saves money. It’s a real win-win.”