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From the Typewriter to AI: The Tech Changes, Pitfalls Remain

Experts at a recent event weighed in on latest technologies, calling attention to the repeating patterns of the past and how to best address the challenges they bring to organizations.

Illustration of a person falling through a hole in a ceiling of a gray room with light shining through.
Managing the technology equated to the “next industrial revolution” is a friction point that few in government IT can deny or ignore.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI (GenAI) are already in place across a host of applications that state agencies use, prompting new procurement guidelines and training to curb potential risks. But there are also risks associated with avoiding — or failing to adopt — the latest and greatest technologies, experts warn.

During a discussion last week at the California Public Sector CIO Academy* in Sacramento, state and industry experts weighed in on the pitfalls that exist on both sides and how organizations should move forward.

Graeme Finley, with Accenture, makes the case that there is no way to accurately chart the trajectory of brand-new technologies or the firms that create them — though there are consistent patterns to watch for. Much like the advent of the typewriter, automobile, and steam engine, Finley said careful adoption can better position organizations to scale and operationalize the technology as it evolves.

“It’s not your job to try and predict that because you can’t, it’s physically impossible. What is your job is to understand at least keep a pulse on what’s happening and watch for those areas of emerging standardization,” he said.

Finley suggests that CIOs think of themselves as the curators of purpose-driven technologies rather than innovators looking to plug in the next big thing.

UiPath’s Jennifer Ott agreed, pointing out that while an agency is best positioned to identify a problem within their own processes, technology vendors are best able to determine the best use cases for their products.

“I think a lot of times going back to why it’s being used — always asking the why — that’s where you’re gonna find the money right there,” Ott said. “How things are, how things can be made easier, how things can be simplified, how we can share data and information securely at scale, and within the rules you’re setting out.”

Aside from the obvious and oft-discussed pitfalls that come with adopting any new technology, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Deputy Director of Technology Scott Gregory said stepping away from the hardware and software to look at the political and societal landscapes can make a huge difference.

“I think it’s a big mistake for us in this field to only look at things from a technology perspective, we have to look at it from a much different angle in order to continue to be successful, because sometimes the tech is easy. The hard part is obviously the people part,” Gregory said.

CAL FIRE works closely with a group of vendors to prove out new advancements and ensure that they fit with the agency’s core mission, he added. “Technology for the sake of technology is really a waste of everyone’s time,” he said.

HP’s Stephen Pieraldi echoed these sentiments, adding that getting stakeholder buy-in can be the difference between a successful initiative and a flop — especially where new tech is concerned.

“As soon as we can get people to come on and be on sides with the goals and the objectives that we’re trying to reach, the technology will either follow or fail based on how well you get those people subscribed on that idea,” he said.

*The California Public Sector CIO Academy is hosted by Government TechnologyIndustry Insider — California’s sister publication.
Eyragon is the Managing Editor for Industry Insider — California. He previously served as the Daily News Editor for Government Technology. He lives in Sacramento, Calif.