By Dan Lohrmann
Why submit a NASCIO Award nomination? What tips can help your state receive an award? What are judges looking for? I am often asked these questions. Here are a few of my answers.
As a former Michigan State Government CISO, CTO and CSO who has led many teams who submitted (and won) numerous awards in different categories from 2003-2014, I can tell you that submitting a top nomination is hard work. However, it was (and still is) always worth the effort and rewarding – even when we didn’t receive an award.
In my experience, NASCIO Awards are about demonstrating excellence and benchmarking meaningful progress. We wanted to share what we learned and help other states to improve and raise the bar for government technology projects and programs around the nation and world. We always reused award submission content in multiple ways.
State Participant Benefits include:
- Staff training and development, team building
- State portfolio of accomplishments and best practices for decision-makers, including legislature
- Assists in periodic performance assessments and prioritization
- Help define state brand
- Staff, team, program and partner recognition and collaboration opportunity
- Applied analytic, data and performance metrics based exercise
- Enterprise, cross program and cross jurisdictional development opportunity
- Opportunity for IT Plan update
- Best practice and emerging solution alignment opportunity
IT Community benefits
- Systematic best practice inventory with associated complementary information and appropriate other state contacts
- Identifies collaborative, cross jurisdictional opportunities, including with counties, cities and the private sector
- Resource base for identifying transition opportunities for transition from best practices to emerging solutions
- Aid in aligning existing state IT, best practice and emerging solutions with state public policy issues, state gubernatorial and NASCIO priorities
What I Look For As a Judge
Since I joined the private sector five years ago and joined the CLC, my judging criteria has seldom changed – except as NASCIO made updates.
First, when reading an entry, I ask if the state write-up:
- Followed the rules and complied with the base NASCIO requirements? I never cease to be amazed how many entries fall flat because they don’t meet the basics.
- Used the full extent of pages allowed – and allocated space based on points. Don’t spend all your space in an area that has minimal points.
- Addressed both sets of NASCIO priorities (1) Strategies, Management Processes and Solutions and (2) Technologies, Applications and Tools. Looked at previous NASCIO awards from earlier years to understand context.
Second, after completing the basics, here’s where the winners excel. Ask:
- Where’s the WOW? If I read the first paragraph or two of the executive summary and think “so what?” – the nomination is in trouble. I want to be impressed. I want to say “it’s hard to believe you pulled this project off, but if you can prove it to me – you win.”
- What’s the problem you’re solving? Addressed a pressing business need that is cutting edge and widespread – not just a rehash of technology projects that other states did years ago.
- What is the lasting measureable value for your government and constituents? Show real benefits in multiple ways, not just financial ROI. Will this project bring value to your state years down the road?
- Can other states do the same thing? Is this project repeatable?
- Are results genuine – not just marketing or fluff? In Michigan, our government staff always wrote the submissions. Sometimes, we sought expert input from private sector partners to strengthen submissions.
I have seen NASCIO award-winning projects (and runner-up projects) become global best practices that are read and implemented all over the world by the public and private sector.
If you demonstrate excellence in your submission, with professional research and diligence, your state will benefit greatly from the final product. And practice makes perfect.