Tennessee’s technology shop has changed hands after more than a decade, its top two IT executives confirmed to Government Technology Oct. 8.
Chief Information Officer Mark Bengel, who assumed the role in July 2007 after more than three years as chief technology officer/deputy CIO, has shifted to a 90-day advisory role and will retire Dec. 31. He’s now listed as CIO emeritus on LinkedIn.
The new CIO is Stephanie Dedmon, a state employee of more than a decade who became deputy CIO nearly three years ago. She was, Bengel told GT, “groomed” for the role and her first day as CIO was Oct. 8.
Bengel, who is believed to be the longest-serving state-level CIO, said he had told the administration in January of his plans to retire at year’s end and characterized Dedmon as “increasingly taking over responsibilities since last January.”
“When I arrived in 2004, we were basically — the CIO ran a central mainframe shop and a network,” Bengel said, noting that today, infrastructure has been consolidated along with a similar effort in data and most of the “app-dev” in most agencies. “It’s a completely different animal and the focus is completely different, changing from a technical focus to business solutions delivery,” he added.
Dedmon, who first joined the state in March 2005 as director of Project Edison, a new enterprise resource planning system that replaced more than 20 legacy solutions, agreed.
“One of the ways I think we see the role evolving is just more of a customer service advocate and really instead of being focused on the technical side of what we need to deliver, to also focus on understanding what are our customers’ business needs,” she said in a separate conversation with GT.
His biggest challenge, Bengel said, was likely “being able to quantify value to your customers,” and despite presiding over the consolidation of executive branch IT from 21 agencies into Strategic Technology Solutions (STS), he said his greatest achievement is creating a good group to carry IT forward.
“That’s really the most important thing a CIO can do. If you can build a strong team that is going to continue to deliver to their customers year after year after year, after you’ve gone, that’s a tremendous accomplishment,” said Bengel, who was recognized as one of GT’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers of 2014.
Working closely, he and Dedmon pushed out the consolidation of executive branch IT to all agencies except the state’s Medicaid agency, and its departments of education and transportation — swelling STS IT staff from around 400 to around 1,100 as employees migrated. The remaining three departments, Dedmon said, will likely be transitioned in next year, under the successor to current Gov. Bill Haslam, who is term-limited.
The consolidation, the new CIO said, was guided by a study from an outside consultant that revealed more IT resources and a more strategic, less transactional approach to IT were needed. It challenged officials to provide to agencies in a “more shared services fashion.” The results, she said, yielded significant cost avoidance as the state was able to centralize, for example, data scientists to work with a variety of agencies.
Also under their tenure, Bengel and Dedmon last year stood up a center of excellence around data, aimed at working with state agencies to enable more data sharing, data analytics and more business decisions based on data. The effort, Dedmon said, is now organizationally in place with standards developed, and STS is beginning to work with agencies to assess data maturity and offer recommendations.
“Our hope for this is that we can make better business decisions that help us be more efficient, effective, save money, provide better service. Whether that’s where we should build new roads, where we should place more offices; or contrary, where should we close offices because the foot traffic is decreasing. Things like that,” said Dedmon, one of GT’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers of 2018.
But another initiative more than two years in the making could be transformational for residents and state employees alike, the CIO emeritus and the state’s new CIO agreed, with Bengel calling it “one of the most important things that we can be doing as CIOs.” It’s the development of the My TN app, which when complete should provide residents single sign-on access to a variety of state services — and de-silo the agency view on the back end to provide staff a unified viewpoint with the goal of improving services.
“We definitely see this initiative as something that we hope the new administration will embrace and be willing to see that as, long-term, as a way to potentially lower our cost in terms of brick-and-mortar buildings that our citizens have to go to in some cases to get services,” Dedmon said, adding the state hopes to go live with the first app early in 2019.
“It’s really about moving government services online, to 24/7 service delivery for our customers,” Bengel said.