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Serving 26 million Texans with secure cloud-based computing—a leap forward for state government agencies

Today’s post was written by Karen Robinson, chief information officer for the State of Texas and executive director for the Texas Department of Information Resources.

Karen CIO State of TexasGovernment agencies across the nation constantly look for ways to deliver increased value while using limited resources wisely. In the State of Texas, cloud-based services are providing new and exciting opportunities to increase process, time and budget efficiencies. In my roles as CIO for the state and executive director for the Department of Information Resources (DIR), I’m privileged to see those benefits on a statewide level. As someone whose job requires a high degree of availability and connectivity, with immediate access to the information I need to make good decisions, the benefits of cloud-based computing impact me personally as well.

Mobility is a big consideration for Texas government. We have 360,000 state employees working for 26 million residents who live in a territory of 269,000 square miles. Our borders contain not only some of the most populated cities in the country, but also more than 130 million acres of farmland and rural areas. We want to enable our employees to be productive, have access to needed information and be able to reach out to their peers no matter which community they serve, what devices they use, or what time of the day they work. This “work anywhere on any device” approach to computing is becoming more integral to how today’s state agencies deliver services to the public, particularly for those who work remotely or in the field.

Texas public sector organizations such as state agencies, municipalities and school districts are DIR’s customers and our job is to provide them with resource-effective technologies that free them to innovate in their areas of expertise. DIR began working with Microsoft as part of our journey to the cloud in order to increase collaboration and communication capabilities within and among state agencies. An up-to-date, secure, common service would give agencies a chance to redirect staff members from administrating various messaging systems so they could focus on more mission-related activities.

Today, more than 100,000 agency employees across Texas are using cloud-based communication and collaboration tools. That makes us the largest statewide example of cloud-based email and collaboration services in the United States. Everyone is excited about using video conferencing, real-time document collaboration and calendar sharing to streamline how they do business, whether at the office or not. I’ve had conference calls with multiple agencies while I was in the car, saving so much time for everyone. My staff more easily routed and produced several recent, critical reports under tight deadlines thanks to real-time document collaboration and instant messaging available through the cloud.

DIR does not mandate specific IT solutions for agencies, but by securing Office 365 for State of Texas employees, we were able to introduce top-of-the-line capabilities affordably, support increasing needs for mobility and make a clear recommendation to the agencies about the mobile productivity benefits you get with cloud-based business tools. Each agency can access the mix of communications tools that is right for its own environment. It meant a lot to me when the Attorney General’s office called to thank us for leading the way, saying, “Wow, these tools are exactly what we need to take us far into the 21st century.” It also meant a lot to see that the first half dozen or so agencies that migrated to the cloud model were realizing 65 percent savings per year, compared to their previous in-house set ups.

All of this is possible because Microsoft responded to our security and privacy needs. The Department of Criminal Justice, Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Department of Insurance and the Health and Human Services System all work with data that is subject to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) standards. Microsoft worked with us to help ensure that Office 365 meets HIPAA and CJIS standards for security and privacy. Microsoft also signed the CJIS Addendum and a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement with us. I can’t overstate how important this was to our decision. It gave us the confidence we needed to work with Microsoft as a trusted partner in bringing cloud computing to Texas.

The State of Texas chose Office 365 as the first major step towards a new culture of computing that resonates with today’s workforce: connected, mobile, efficient and service oriented. It’s a big state and a big responsibility, but we have the tools we need to get the job done—without compromising on security or privacy. Working with Microsoft to help establish this new service paradigm has been an exciting journey. It’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of broad adoption of cloud services and realizing the benefits that they can bring to state government.

—Karen Robinson

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