Monday, August 26, Maryland’s new chief information officer and secretary for the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) will take office, as announced by Gov. Martin O’Malley earlier this month. Isabel FitzGerald brings private- and public-sector experience, having served as CIO for the Maryland Department of Human Resources and later serving as the governor’s deputy secretary for operations. She will replace Elliot H. Schlanger, who will fill the newly created position of Director of Cybersecurity for the state.
While finishing up at her old position, FitzGerald shared with Government Technology a general outline for the future as she plans to take on new technology projects for the state and continue those led by Schlanger. FitzGerald named four main areas she said she will focus on as the foundation for the state’s technological future.
Although Schlanger will head cybersecurity operations for the state, cybersecurity will remain an important focus for DoIT, FitzGerald said. “It’s important for us to make sure we’re doing the things we need to and also lay the foundation for the mobile society that we live in,” she said. “Our data is no longer at rest.” With the proliferation of mobile devices, security is as critical an issue as ever and keeping the state secure remains one of the governor’s main directives, she said.
The state will also continue much of the interoperability work already under way, she said. “I think we have an opportunity to standardize and consolidate and derive economies of scale, both in terms of hardware, software and services,” she said.
The state started some consolidation initiatives early that can now be expanded upon, she said. “One of my longer range goals, I really want to lay the foundation and create a structure where we really change how we manage our data and how we bring data to the residents that we serve,” she said. “I want to change up the customer experience. I want to make more information available.”
The state has begun making more services available, and FitzGerald said she wants to move the state toward delivering more services in the formats that people want. “I think it’s very important to be able to lay that foundation, which requires us to modernize some of our infrastructure and some of the systems that we use,” she said.
Lastly, she said, the state should improve its business relations with groups like TechAmerica, to make gains in areas like procurement changes. “[I want to] really find a good balance between making sure that the state’s protected and can quantify its risk, and also creating terms and conditions and processes that also support innovation and support competition in the market,” she said.
These four fundamental things will create the structure for long-term improvement in the state, FitzGerald said. “Well done is better than well said,” she said, citing her own motto. “I think it’s important to plan, but it’s equally important or more important to be able to actually execute it. I think people can plan themselves to death and it’s important to make the best decisions that you can based on available data and move forward.”
She will be able to execute her plan, she said, based on her experience in the Department of Human Resources where she was a consumer of the technology she will now be charged with providing. “I’m very well aware of the challenges that exist in IT and the importance of it as well, so I want to make sure the things we’re doing at DoIT support initiatives that bring true value to the agencies that we serve.”
She plans on being highly collaborative with other cabinet secretaries and agencies, she said, as well as building stronger relationships with industry partners like TechAmerica, adding that their experience with government and the visibility of government IT across the country allows them to share valuable knowledge. “The best source of information are the business partners and the people in the industry,” she said.
TechAmerica issued a press release commending the state for the appointments of both FitzGerald and Schlanger to the new cybersecurity position.
"FitzGerald is a great selection for state CIO, said Carol Henton, vice president for state and local government at TechAmerica. “I understand that she is passionate about public service, and she certainly understands the important role that state government plays in protecting and providing support to its vulnerable citizens,” Henton said. “But perhaps more relevant to TechAmerica and its member companies, she is willing to support and drive innovation. And she’s not afraid to be an agent of change.”
Henton echoed comments made by FitzGerald that the state needs to update its procurement policies, and said the state has recently had major challenges in that area. “The good news is that the state has recognized they have problems,” she said. “They’ve recognized that they’ve set themselves into a situation where they’re not getting the competition and bids they would like.