On March 30, Richard Sanchez will spend his final day as Los Angeles County CIO and end a 40-plus year career of continuous service to the locality.
“I think I’ve done a pretty good stint here with LA county — pretty good for a summer job,” Sanchez said. “I’ve been here quite a while and moved up the ranks, and I think it’s time to make a change.”
Until a permanent replacement is found, Deputy CIO Peter Loo will serve as acting CIO, Sanchez said, adding that he will continue to survey his options for post-retirement work.
During the past several years, Sanchez is credited with leading an agency that created a chief data officer role, building a county open data portal, replacing many of the county’s legacy applications, overseeing a mobile workforce strategy that increased citizen service access and improved internal operations, and launching a Microsoft Office 365 roll-out reaching more than 100,000 employees.
“There was a lot we were able to do, particularly within the past four years, where money was tight, technology was just booming and we were looking to try to take advantage of as many of these initiatives as we could,” Sanchez said, adding that his crowning accomplishment was opening lines of communication and trust across the county’s federated agencies.
“I took over as the county CIO on April Fool’s day in 2008, which might have been something for me to have stopped and reflected on a moment, but nonetheless I think part of the major accomplishment dealt with developing strong relationships with the 34 core line departments I do the majority of work with,” he said. “One of the things I’m very proud of is the fact that we were able to get everyone together and start thinking of the good and the value of the enterprise, and how I got these agencies working well together and establishing a governing process in which everyone had a voice in the changes that were being implemented. And I had an opportunity to state how that would impact them, and then not to bowl over anybody, but just to work collaboratively and cooperatively to solve and address many of their concerns and problems before we actually implemented.”
Any success the county’s technology projects enjoyed during the last few years was in large part enabled by those open lines of communication, Sanchez said, because gathering input from a wide range of stakeholders ensures that agencies’ needs are being met and they’re more likely to cooperate in the future.
“I think the most important aspect of any CIO — and the sooner you learn this the better off you will be as a service provider — is the whole concept of communications,” Sanchez said, talking about communications between agencies, to the business leaders and among technologists.
"I think that as you evolve, you go beyond just techie speak, but just being able to translate the technical solutions to the business side and understand where they’re coming from," he continued, "so you can be much more effective as a technology leader within the organization and to be able to communicate and be open and not be narrow minded in terms of solutions.”
The rapid evolution of technology presents many options to CIOs, Sanchez said, so it’s crucial that leaders communicate to others how the growing number of technology options can assist their businesses. Those lines of communication that Sanchez helped forge in Los Angeles County are the part of his job he said he’ll miss most.
“I certainly enjoyed my time in local government,” he said. “It’s been a great experience for me. I’ll miss the camaraderie I’ve had with the departmental CIOs, as well as our business partners, and I look forward to staying in touch with many of them in whatever capacity or role I may have in the future.”