This year marks the 30th anniversary of the NASCIO State IT Recognition Awards, which honor innovation and excellence in the use of information technology in state government. Since the program’s inception, states have submitted nearly 4,000 nominations highlighting their important work.
In celebrations of this milestone, NASCIO challenges all states to submit at least one nomination for award consideration. Along with individual state recognition, the Awards highlight the integral, but often unsung, role information technology plays in meeting the goals of state government across our nation.
To provide guidance on how to submit strong award nominations, I spoke with award judges and with states that consistently submit highly-scored nominations. Combined with insight as the award administrator, NASCIO has distilled this wisdom into a handful of award submission tips.
1. FOCUS ON INNOVATION - NASCIO is seeking transformational projects that address critical business problems, improve business processes and increase citizen engagement in state government. Seek out projects that take best practices to the next level – those that exemplify leading and innovative practices or apply common practices in a transformational way.
2. READ, REREAD, THEN READ AGAIN
Reading (and following) requirements is a given. Past that, make sure you carefully read category descriptions. While a project may relate to multiple categories, the descriptions will help you find the right home. Look to past submissions in the Awards Library
to see the types of projects that have been recognized in certain categories and how the narrative was crafted.
3. TELL A COMPELLING STORY
Nominations are limited to seven pages; use that space to draw the judge into the project. I call it the big why and the little how
. Focus on outlining the problem (the why) – what it is, who it impacts, why it’s worth addressing and how the project solves it. Technical specifications (the how) may be necessary to touch on but shouldn’t take center stage. As one state told me, “provide context for what you’re doing and focus on the difference you’re making.”
4. DEMONSTRATE THE VALUE
- After you’ve shown why your project is innovative and consequential, bring on the data. Include whatever metrics are meaningful to your project – cost or time savings, increased engagement, improved satisfaction, thwarted threats, etc. A good story without supportive facts reads more like a fairy tale.
5. THROW IN SOME FLAIR
- Strategic visual aids can clarify components of your project. Screenshots, infographics, charts, etc. are allowed (and encouraged) in the nomination. It may feel like you’re giving up valuable space to include a picture but used correctly, the image will succinctly communicate an idea that would have taken a lot of words to explain.
6. PUT A BOW ON IT
You’ve worked hard, now show it off with the first thing judges see – the title! While the content of the nomination is what matters most, your title does set the tone. Put on your creative hat and find a title that strikes a balance of catchy and descriptive. Some past examples include:
- Florida cleverly used their project’s acronym: Lighting a FIRRE in the Fight Against Fraud
- Ohio was honest and optimist: Expanding Unified Communications Across Ohio: Cloudy with a Chance of True Enterprise Collaboration
- Michigan put the value their project front and center: Saving Time, Improving Outcomes: Michigan Child Support Program Transforms Its Customer Experience
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another commonality of states consistently submitting strong nominations. Almost all host an internal awards program administered by the State CIO’s office.
Not only is this a way for states to recognize and celebrate the great work going on within their borders, but also to identify agency projects to submit for NASCIO awards. Many programs mirror NASCIO’s award categories and require similar information in their submissions. From there a communication’s officer or project lead works with the agency to craft the nomination narrative.
Understandably, staff and time constraints can be a barrier to implementing a similar program. NASCIO requires the state CIO’s office to approve all award nominations. This allows states without an awards program or formal submission process an opportunity for oversight on what is ultimately submitted. One approver can provide consistency in how nominations look and can review content to ensure the strongest story is being told.
NASCIO looks forward to receiving your nomination. Information on the State IT Recognition Awards can be found at NASCIO.org/Awards/SIT. Nominations will be accepted through May 24. Please contact Emily Lane with any questions at elane@NASCIO.org.