Missouri CIO says creativity is needed to address workforce challenges

Missouri Chief Information Officer Michael Cheles may be on his way out, but he tells StateScoop that he wants to ensure the state’s workforce is prepared to carry on without him.

Workforce development, he says, is one of his top priorities as the state’s top technology official and that he’s instated a directive to agency directors for five percent of employee hours to be spent on training.

“We are averaging about 3,000 or 4,000 hours a month now in training,” Cheles says in video interview earlier this month. “That target really needs to be closer to 8,000. The rationale being that we’re not going to get a lot of extra money from the state, so we’re going to have to find a way to be more productive and raises will be made through more productivity.”

The other rationale for the increased training, he says, is that the state also needs to keep pace with technological change and the staffing changes that should come with that — a challenge for a resource-constrained organization such as his.

“Missouri is going to look at 50 to 100 new positions in the next three years,” Cheles says. “These are positions that don’t really exist today, be they cloud engineers or contract managers or vendor managers as we outsource more things. That’s going to have to come from somewhere. We’re not going to be able to go to the legislature and get those positions.”

To make those new positions a reality, Cheles says the organization will probably need to do more outsourcing and reclassify some existing positions to cover the jobs that may not exist today, but could in three years. When that happens, Cheles won’t be around, though, because he’s announced that he will retire at the end of the year.

Cheles on his top projects and priorities:

“It will be the first time in 20 years we’ve really done an investment like this [ERP] in our finance budgeting, procurement, and human resources area.”

Cheles on digital transformation and modernization:

“We have still probably about 25 percent of our systems are cobol. we have several very large projects that are all cobol-based right now that are on the table for renewal, ERP being the main one.”

Cheles on how he sees his role changing in the future:

“It’s actually becoming a lot less technological and more business manager. As we outsource a lot of services, we’re going to have a lot of vendor management, service licence agreements we need to manage.”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in October 2019.