There’s a misperception that an organization’s CIO who, through the strength of his or her personal vision or enlightenment somehow drags enterprise colleagues to the place where they need to be, then everything works beautifully. I don’t believe that’s how it really works, and it’s certainly not how we move forward with enterprise information technology planning in Wisconsin. We recognize that every member of the State’s IT community has an important role in achieving customer-focused service delivery.
State government IT professionals can teach us how we position IT to help achieve the state’s goals. My role is to encourage the collaboration that can help us all take advantage of the skills and innovative ideas that exist throughout the enterprise by building relationships, encouraging dialogue between policy makers, business people and IT professionals and then letting talent flourish.
We have more than enough IT talent to help state government achieve Governor Walker’s goals of growing our economy, developing our workforce, transforming education, reforming government, and building our infrastructure. My role, along with my IT counterparts, is to make sure the mechanisms are in place to ensure we spend every government dollar wisely.
Personal interactions are important in our industry. I make sure to attend the governor’s cabinet meetings, the meetings of administrative officers, the IT director meetings, and meetings with my own division’s managers. While I may not have all the answers, engaging with others helps good ideas emerge from all sides.
An example of this collaborative approach is how we are expanding broadband availability in Wisconsin. My private-sector CIO experiences and my interactions with the Madison Metropolitan School District convinced me years ago that available, affordable broadband will be a key success factor, both for the governor’s economic-development initiatives, as well as preparing our students for the 21st century workforce. When I became State CIO in November 2012, I understood my responsibility to help expand and elevate broadband, but I knew this could only be accomplished with partners.
I reached out to the CIO at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Deputy Superintendent at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction–individuals who share my belief in the business case for broadband expansion and, importantly, with whom I had collaborated productively on previous efforts. In a short time, we had come up with targets for broadband in our schools and universities and we were speaking in a unified voice about what we want for our students and residents.
Our discussions have already led to a plan for bandwidth upgrades for public library systems in the state, which we are currently implementing. This first step will significantly enhance community-based Internet access at libraries, and our collaborative group has expanded to include the CIOs of UW System Administration and UW-Health. I’m very encouraged by their ideas for cooperation and resource sharing.
Another key element in a complex enterprise like ours is a clearly recognized IT governance mechanism. Governor Walker recognized that too, and established the IT Executive Steering Committee (ITESC) to provide direction across state government related to enterprise IT procurement strategies and policies. I serve on ITESC alongside agency deputy secretaries, and we utilize a collaborative and consensus-building approach.
I followed the success of ITESC by creating the Wisconsin Information Technology Directors Committee, whose IT director membership mirrors ITESC. Between the two groups, we have a consistent framework for taking on both the more strategic issues (ITESC) and the more tactical considerations (IT Directors Committee) here groups work in synergy, and this structure reflects a healthy, functioning enterprise.
Along with the Secretary’s Office in my agency, we have been providing hope and business-driven solutions to our counterparts in state government. Governor Walker’s administration has made strategic investments that will give us exponentially better tools for sound financial management going forward.
“The new state web portal was updated with a new mobile-friendly modern design and streamlined content with up-to-date web technology”
For instance, Wisconsin has launched an enterprise resource planning project to consolidate more than 120 different financial, budget, procurement and human resource systems that were developed in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. This will help the State save $99 million from an integrated administrative system, while improving efficiency, consistency among state agencies, and modernization of the State’s IT infrastructure.
The new ERP will give us real-time data to make better informed business decisions, provide better customer service, and more effectively manage state government activities.In April, we unveiled a new modernized state portal. It was updated with a new mobile-friendly modern design and streamlined content. The new portal leverages up-to-date web technology, while site navigation has been reorganized to make the redesigned website visually appealing and productive. The portal is organized around user groups for better service to citizens, businesses and government users, and it features to the top online services that each State agency offers. With more than 2.9 million visits to the site each year, this overhaul is a major customer service accomplishment for residents.
For the first time, we also have an enterprise-wide cybersecurity plan. Cyber threats are real and are becoming more common. We take precautions to protect our systems, and we are implementing a strategy to teach our employees about how they can help protect our resources from the variety of online attacks, such as phishing emails. The security of our IT systems is important to all of us, and ultimately, the citizens we serve. When we all work together to defend against online threats, we protect the information that is entrusted to us as a state.
These are just small steps compared to what we still would like to accomplish. But over time, if the state IT community continues to build relationships, establish trust, and provide evidence of a customer-service focus, then hope becomes a reasonable idea to accept within our enterprise and among our ultimate customers: Wisconsinites. It’s always easier said than done, but these challenges are a great motivator.