Maryland CIO Michael Leahy: Leading Maryland’s Tech Transformation for a Cloud-Smart Future
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Maryland CIO Michael Leahy: Leading Maryland’s Tech Transformation for a Cloud-Smart Future

The Western Connect Magazine - Maryland CIO Michael Leahy Leading Maryland's Tech Transformation for a Cloud Smart Future

Maryland CIO Michael Leahy discusses his accomplishments and outlines the critical priorities for the state’s technology landscape, ensuring a seamless transition for the next administration.

In an exclusive interview with Western Connect, Maryland CIO Michael Leahy reflects on his six-year tenure and reveals his plans to propel the state’s technological advancement before his term concludes with Gov. Larry Hogan’s departure. During his time as CIO, Leahy has made remarkable strides in optimizing Maryland’s resources and setting the stage for a cloud-smart future. Furthermore, he has established processes and standards that empower agencies to assess progress and explore alternative tech solutions.

As the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) president, Leahy also sheds light on potential focus areas for the upcoming 2022 NASCIO Annual Conference, scheduled in Louisville, Ky., from October 9-12.

TWC Magazine: With a new administration on the horizon, what are your priorities in ensuring a smooth transition in Maryland?
Leahy: The highest priority is ensuring the incoming administration fully comprehends our accomplishments. New administrations often bring new ideas and preferences, but they must recognize the value of building upon our achievements. We must provide them with a comprehensive transition plan, outlining the landscape and identifying quick wins.

Our IT Master Plan, spanning the last two years of the Hogan administration and the first year of the next, emphasizes the importance of processes and accountability. Clear responsibilities and a methodology to track progress are essential even in a federated system.

Our Portfolio Office, established three years ago, has been a resounding success in managing customer service and project intake. Three other major state agencies have adopted it. We’ve laid a strong foundation, and I want to see it flourish.

TWC Magazine: What are your immediate IT priorities for Maryland?
Leahy: From a technological standpoint, we focus on enhancing our one-stop portal’s capabilities to accommodate new applications and modernize government projects. We’re deeply involved in incorporating robust identity management into the portal. Building a centralized platform requires assuring citizens and residents that their information is secure and their privacy is protected.

Additionally, our financial management system, operating since the early 1990s, needs an upgrade. We’re currently exploring cloud-based alternatives to replace the existing mainframe system. Although the study will conclude at the end of Gov. Hogan’s term, I’m eager to observe the results.

TWC Magazine: How does Maryland approach cloud adoption?
Leahy: Maryland follows a unique model that combines a federated system with a cloud-smart approach. While five significant agencies have IT programs larger than my entire department, we provide them with various services while maintaining their considerable independence. However, our focus on the cloud has evolved from cloud-first to cloud-smart, and Amazon Web Services is our primary cloud provider.

Our private cloud infrastructure has been valuable, especially with expanding our one-stop portal and the MD THINK program. As we continue to explore cloud-based initiatives in public safety, the health department, and other areas, the growth of our cloud platforms will accelerate. The cloud’s usage should expand from 25-30% to 70% in the next decade.

TWC Magazine: With an expected wave of federal funding for cybersecurity, what plans does Maryland have for allocation?
Leahy: We’re awaiting final directions from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on the distribution of funds, which is anticipated in early fall. 80% of the funding is designated for local governments. While it presents a substantial opportunity, we must be cautious that it is not spent on unsustainable investments. We’re exploring distributing services among local governments to reduce costs through collaboration.

Promoting standard defensive measures is vital. Sharing data about network vulnerabilities allows us to align our priorities. We will focus on shared services that CISA supports. Moreover, we hope to assist entities with limited resources in conducting thorough assessments to determine the best value for their cybersecurity investments.

TWC Magazine: What aspects of the NASCIO Annual Conference are you looking forward to?
Leahy: I have a keen interest in discussions surrounding identity management. It’s a topic that warrants continued exploration. Cybersecurity will undoubtedly be a significant theme, particularly the concept of common defence. Several states have already implemented security operation centres and collaborated with local governments, with North Dakota leading the way.

Addressing the challenges states face regarding risk management and defining acceptable risk is crucial. This will significantly impact issues related to cyber insurance. States can do more to manage data risks and protect critical assets. Additionally, considering vendor relationships in the supply chain is crucial, particularly with the growing reliance on cloud services. States must align their partners’ operations with their risk management strategies.

In conclusion, Michael Leahy’s visionary leadership and commitment to enhancing Maryland’s technology landscape have positioned the state for a prosperous future. His focus on accountability, cloud adoption, and cybersecurity will leave a lasting impact on Maryland’s government and its citizens. As he prepares to pass the baton to the next administration, Leahy’s legacy as Maryland’s CIO is one of progress, innovation, and preparation for the challenges ahead.

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