An IT Insider’s 2021 Outlook: Opportunities Amid Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and the Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) have shaped the state’s priorities and challenged the state to accelerate modernization and digitization efforts. Looking forward, it will be these issues, combined with a challenging budget environment, that will define the IT outlook for 2021.

This story is limited to Techwire Insider members.
This story is limited to Techwire Insider members. Login below to read this story or learn about membership.
Techwire Insiders got an overview during last week’s “Techwire State of Technology” forum of what may lie ahead for California government technology, including ongoing challenges as well as emerging opportunities. Among the presenters was Joe Morris, vice president of research for the Center for Digital Government, a part of Techwire parent e.Republic. Morris, an author and national speaker, distilled his findings for Techwire, and his takeaways are presented here.

The COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires and the Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) have shaped the state’s priorities and challenged the state to accelerate modernization and digitization efforts. Looking forward, it will be these issues, combined with a challenging budget environment, that will define the IT outlook for 2021.

Fiscal Outlook

While the 2021 fiscal outlook is better than expected (a $26-billion surplus!), a long-term operation deficit will force difficult spending decisions, and it has elevated budget and cost control as a priority for departments and agencies including the CIO’s Office. California, like all states and localities, is closely monitoring efforts at the federal level to pass the $908-billion stimulus package, which could net the state an estimated $18 billion to $19 billion and include much-needed fiscal relief.

COVID-19 Impact

Looking beyond the budgetary impact, the pandemic has ushered in a distributed workforce and a new culture of work. Empowering and supporting this remote/hybrid workforce will be a key priority in 2021 and is also contributing to an increase in cybersecurity-related spending to secure the new “edge.”  With the majority of the state under a lockdown, the state will continue to improve, expand and simplify digital government services. Finally, the pandemic has immediately demonstrated the importance of technology — specifically, connectivity. Look for the state to prioritize efforts to close the digital divide.

Outlook for Technology?  

Looking at next year, I am optimistic that we’ll continue to see technology play a vital role in both the COVID-19 response and recovery. The rapid pace of IT modernization will likely continue through the first half of 2021, as we continue to battle the virus and a vaccine arrives. It is also likely to expect that if Congress passes additional stimulus and recovery funds in 2021, this will provide more wind in the sails for technology.

Plenty of Opportunities

As the state emerges from the worst of this crisis, there will be a series of technology-related challenges that the state will have to address, including adapting and re-skilling their workforce, process modernization and what we’re calling the “Great Reconciliation.” IT organizations will need to begin to reconcile all the various applications and solutions that have been stood up in response to COVID-19 and assess what needs to be sunsetted or repurposed and, ultimately, what can be integrated across the enterprise. Moments like these are a catalyst for innovation and opportunity, and they will continue to require the best of both the government IT workforce and industry to solve.

Vice President of Research, e.Republic