North Carolina’s chief information officer is stepping down next week and will return to the private sector, Gov. Pat McCrory’s office said Monday.

Chris Estes, announced as the CIO at the outset of McCrory’s administration in January 2013, will join PricewaterhouseCoopers consulting, where he once worked.

McCrory considered Estes a key hire to help modernize the state’s historically disjointed information technology operations. The General Assembly followed McCrory’s wishes and in September turned Estes’ agency into a Cabinet-level department that had more power over IT decisions in state government. Estes was sworn in as an official Cabinet member just last month.

“Not only has he saved the taxpayers millions of dollars, the customer-first attitude he brought from his private sector experience has made it easier for individual citizens and small business owners to interact and do business with state government,” McCrory said in a release.

Chris Estes bio

State CIO Chris Estes serves on the cabinet of Governor Pat McCrory and leads statewide IT planning and operations with an annual budget of more than $600 million and 2,200 employees.

Chris currently serves as Executive Committee Director for the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) and is Chair of the National Innovation Committee, a coalition of states that share strategies for bringing innovation to government.

Chris led a collaborative effort by state leaders to establish the Innovation Center (iCenter), a working lab where state employees, students and industry work together in a “try before you buy” approach to testing information technology systems. The iCenter was recognized as a “Bright Idea” in government by the Ash Center at Harvard University, “State IT Program of the Year” by StateScoop, and “Special CIO Recognition Award Finalist” by NASCIO.

Chris has been recognized with the StateScoop Leadership Award, Triangle Business Journal CIO of the Year award, and as a Charlotte Business Journal CIO of the Year award finalist. As an advocate for STEM education, he also works with schools and universities to encourage students to pursue careers in technology.

Prior to becoming State CIO, Chris spent more than twenty-five years in the high-tech, manufacturing and financial services industries for leading brands PwC, BearingPoint, and Booz Allen Hamilton where he was a Principal in the Strategy, Technology, and Innovation practice. He attended Yale University’s Strategic Leadership program and earned his bachelor’s degree from Mercer University.

Estes, whose departure is effective Nov. 29, has been commuting weekly from the Charlotte area to work in Raleigh. In McCrory’s announcement, He thanked the governor and praised McCrory for focusing on using technology to be more efficient and effective.

Under Estes’ leadership, the state information technology agency created an “Innovation Center” for testing potential computer technology for government before the state made purchasing decisions.

“I would like to thank Governor McCrory for the opportunity to serve in his administration,” Estes said in the release. “Governor McCrory’s leadership in using technology to be more efficient and effective in serving the citizens sets him apart from other governors and even private sector CEOs.”

Deputy State CIO Keith Werner will fill Estes’ duties as the acting state CIO.