Ed Toner

Incremental Innovation

Baseball Stadium

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With the College World Series starting this week in Omaha, baseball metaphors are once again on my mind.  When it comes to innovation or transformation, I am not looking for the homerun, simply small base hits.  That is what we do and do well at the OCIO.  No grand slams, we simply do our jobs and make incremental improvements when the opportunities present themselves.  We never swing for the fence as many organizations do, and more often than not, fail in the process. The McKinsey Center for Government reported that 80% of major public sector projects fail. The OCIO’s practice is to start with a clear business case with a clearly defined problem, not a solution.  We focus on proven technologies that work, implement in a phased approach, and therefore deliver a low-risk to high-reward outcome. 

I echoed those thoughts during a podcast a few weeks ago about emerging technology and the cloud. 

“I certainly think [emerging tech] is the sweet spot for the cloud,” I said on the podcast. “A cloud provider can get you kick-started in that direction much quicker than having something on-prem. I’m still really looking for that use-case that we can grab hold of here in Nebraska where it could help us. … I’m reading a lot about it, but not seeing a whole lot of it.”

Read the full interview



Incremental innovation is a series of small improvements much like Lean’s continuous improvement model illustrates. It may not be cutting edge, but it is also not standing still and accepting things as they are.  Our goal is not to have the latest hyped technology, it is to have something that is proven to work. “Low-risk and high-success” as mentioned in the podcast, is the target, not something that another State is “actively pursuing”… following such a path is will lead to a solution in search of a problem.  Nebraska’s solutions must be technologies that have a history of demonstrated success and provide some value to Nebraskans or Nebraska’s customers. We also follow the policy of leveraging or expanding the use of existing technologies that we own or explore additional capabilities of these technologies, which we have not previously deployed.

IT Cloud

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At the State of Nebraska, it’s not our charge as a public entity to be the first in line, rush new products to the marketplace or gain a competitive edge over competitors. Almost certainly, this high-risk chase for innovation is a waste of taxpayer dollars. The government is designed to move cautiously and that is not a bad thing; it makes us think through the alternatives to provide the optimal product. The private sector willingly takes these risks and the associated chance of failure because if they do not innovate competitors may steal their customers along with their profits, putting them at risk with their board of directors and investors. Funding in the public sector is not a voluntary investment from shareholders, rather it is the result of tax revenue. Therefore, we must be good stewards of that investment in our daily operations and technology investments.

Early adoption of technologies too often results in little to show for the large investment dollars. At the OCIO, we will continue our practice of relying on base hits, proven technologies, but always be in a position to identify practical uses for breakthrough applications and technologies that are beyond the pioneering stage and ready for widespread use.


Thank you for all you do for the citizens of Nebraska and fulfilling our Mission “Respect for the Taxpayers of Nebraska”.

Ed Toner