Every year the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) releases its top 10 technology priorities. On May 28, NACIO released a white paper describing what it is calling the Four Forces Model. The Model highlights the forces – political forces, customer forces, market forces, and inertial forces – that impact how CIOs do their jobs.

In the white paper, NASCIO explores the dynamics of the Top Ten through the lens of the Four Forces model, highlighting “the management, communications, and strategic challenges state CIOs face in driving those priorities.”

In terms of what state CIOs are prioritizing, NASCIO’s 2020 State CIO Top 10 Priorities are cybersecurity and risk management; digital government; cloud services; consolidation/optimization; customer relationship management; budget, cost control, and fiscal management; legacy modernization; data management and analytics; broadband/wireless connectivity; and innovation and transformation through technology.

NASCIO said the goal of the white paper is to “offer a tool for state CIOs in their everpresent challenge of communicating value to stakeholders.”

The Four Forces

NASCIO offered an explanation of what goes into each of the four forces it identified and how those forces impact the change principles state CIOs use to guide their decision making.

Credit: NASCIO

“The Four Forces drive and influence the ability of a leader to effect change in government. As an enterprise leader, the state CIO must be more than aware of these forces,” NASCIO explains. “These forces must be managed, leveraged, explained and, when necessary, accepted.”

The forces are not static, NASCIO said, instead, the forces will shift based on importance and influence according “to the landscape of a state, organization, or project.” For instance, during a gubernatorial transition, political forces will be the dominate influencer, but in the instance of massive tech rollout, inertial forces would come to the forefront.

“The specifics of these forces, their strength, duration, and the personalities and roles involved, will depend on circumstances including the governor’s agenda, the priorities in the legislature, agency strategic plans, internal organizational dynamics and culture, and most important the overall influence of the demands and expectations of citizens,” NASCIO explained.

Circling back to the top 10 priorities, NASCIO said, “a CIO’s effectiveness in implementing these priorities is influenced by the Four Forces and vice versa. An effective CIO can change the course of a policy or strategy by effectively managing the forces that influence government change.”

Key Questions and Reccomendations

To help CIOs turn the Four Forces Model into actionable steps, NASCIO offered up both a list of key questions for CIOs and recommendations.

The key questions look to ascertain the role the CIO is currently playing in state government, how the Four Forces currently impact the CIOs goals and priorities, and what needs to change to help CIOs achieve their goals.

Key Questions:

  • “Does the state CIO office have the necessary influence to establish effective partnering with peer officers and stakeholders?
  • What steps can be taken to ensure these relationships exist and are maintained?
  • What authorities does the state CIO have through the governor’s cabinet, lines of reporting and legislation? These authorities will help define the influence of the state CIO relative to the Four Forces.
  • How much influence does the state CIO have over the vision for technology use in state government?
  • What is the general level and nature of the trust between the state CIO’s office and the many stakeholders/partners?
  • What governance structures should be in place to establish and maintain a trust ecosystem that includes the office of the state CIO, the agencies, cabinet members, and corporate partners?
  • Do you have in place an effective communication strategy that addresses new initiatives and ongoing operations?
  • Do you have the necessary collaboration tools for enabling effective collaboration and co-creation?
  • What standards, policies, and procedures come into play or should be established when evaluating and launching new collaboration tools and business practices particularly when considering remote workers?
  • How can the Four Forces be applied in a post COVID-19 world?”

The reccomendations focus on helping CIOs improve their role in their state’s government, figuring out what they need to prioritize first, and how to ensure their team is focused on modernization.


  • Maintain a realistic evaluation of what you can accomplish during your tenure as a state CIO – and accept the fact that you may not be able to accomplish everything you set out to achieve. At some point, there may be overwhelming forces the office of the state CIO simply cannot overcome, or mitigate, or reach a reasonable compromise.
  • Employ [NASCIO’s] Stakeholder Management Framework to become an expert in understanding the specific forces of change in your state.
  • Establish and maintain necessary and productive relationships and partnering with peers and key stakeholders. This should lead to valuable collaborations and co-creation of strategies and solutions.
  • The co-influence between the state CIO and those on the other side of these forces can be used to create synergistic set of balance beams. These balance beams will be used to continually evaluate issues and opportunities, enterprise needs and agency specific needs, and the full array of market offerings and capabilities. The state CIO must respond to and exploit these forces and make wise choices for reaching outcomes.
  • Maintain an attitude and culture of continual learning, exploration, and experimentation. This will help cultivate a culture within the CIO organization that is inquisitive, optimistic, open-minded and creative as the CIO and his/her organization examine, explore, discuss and ultimately leverage the Four Forces for achieving outcomes.”
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs