Case Study

Illinois’ transition
to become the first
“Smart State"

Smart States vital to US Smart Cities

While there has been tremendous focus on smart cities in the past few years, in the US, smart states and regional governments also need to play a role. IDC and the state of Illinois have identified this triple role as:

  • Transforming state government
  • Supporting the development of Smart Cities
  • Creating smart and connected regional clusters

The state of Illinois has been putting the concept of the Smart State into action.

Scoring the bottom quartile of the 2014 Digital States Survey was the catalyst for widespread a shift to the State of Illinois’ technology practices and approach to Digital Transformation. It began with leadership and commitment at top levels. The State CIO had both public and private experience and the support of the governor’s office to revise the role of technology and data and digitally transform to a “smart state.” Illinois aimed to improve services, attract business, and raise the economic standing and global competiveness of the state.

State of Illinois Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT)


  • Illinois: 5th largest economy in US
  • Nearly $1B portfolio of IT investments
  • Unified IT Workforce of 1700

IDC Analyst Experts

Ruthbea Yesner
Alison Brooks, Ph.D.

"Smart States appoint tech-savvy community catalysts to lead the charge, engage and support rural and urban communities, retrain their existing workforce, and remove procedural roadblocks so that innovation can take root."

Ruthbea Yesner, Vice President, Government Insights and Smart Cities, IDC

Major challenges included overcoming moribund procurement processes and other entrenched ways of operating outdated in the digital age. Approaches for smart states also have to be flexible enough to work for both urban and rural areas. But smart states are also able to provide regional structural solutions as well as use their procurement power to include smaller areas and municipalities that previously found innovative technology out of reach.

Roadmapping

In 2015, Illinois gathered a focused group of private sector advisors, and later conducted larger thought leadership workshops with over 200 participants from industry, academia, research organizations, and the public sector. This expertise helped create a vision and strategy for smarter, more innovative government and services. The strategy had statewide, national, and international contexts to leverage relationships and expertise worldwide.

Once they had a clear strategy and roadmap, the focus shifted to short-term achievable projects that fed into longer-term priorities in three key areas:

  • Smarter technology
  • Smarter business and regulations
  • Leading the nation in building the workforce of the future

Early in the journey the state created a baseline to more accurately measure the results of the endeavor.

Initiatives and areas for public/private partnerships range from infrastructure to social services, including streamlining processes, smarter streetlighting, traffic controls, utility and environmental monitoring, and citizen services.

Key Uses for IDC Information

The CIO and his team called on IDC resources in a number of areas:

  • Best practices on organizing the most effective tech departments
  • Building strategy for specific verticals
  • New ways to use big data
  • IT role vs. business role
  • Compliance and financial information
  • Security threats
  • Emerging technologies

Key Approaches

  • Incentivizing municipalities to accelerate innovation
  • Model procurement processes and pre-approved vendor lists - meaning a shift from projects starting in only 6 to 8 weeks instead of 6 to 18 months
  • Delivering early quick wins to demonstrate value

IDC has identified a number of practices for successful smart state transformation. To learn more, contact IDC’s Smart City practice at insights@idc.com.

Early Results

  • Consolidated 38 separate state IT operations into a cohesive whole – one that operates like a business
  • IoT center of excellence
  • Increased mobile capable transactions from 3% to 50%
  • Streamlined business platforms and procurement
  • Moving to the top third of the Digital States Survey
  • Cybersecurity, data sharing, and blockchain initiatives

About Illinois and the Smart State movement

About IDC

IDC is the most trusted IT research advisory firm in the market. IDC’s IT Executive Programs support businesses globally in the digital transformation (DX) of their organizations. Our IT advisory services not only advise on the technologies underpinning DX (e.g., cloud, analytics, IoT, mobility, 3D printing), but also on effectively leading and executing DX initiatives across both IT and the line of business. For over 50 years, IDC has provided strategic insights to enable clients to achieve their key business objectives. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, the world’s leading technology media, research, and events company.

About IDC Government Insights

Smart city and other technology initiatives are transforming the delivery of government services. Learn how IDC research and expertise in working with governments throughout the world can help you provide more efficient and effective pubic programs and services.

IDC IT Executive Programs customers receive access to IDC's Industry Research. Learn more about IDC Government Insights and how IDC can help you develop strategic priorities, programs and use cases for outcomes-based digital transformation (DX) ranging from resilient infrastructures to intelligent transportation.