"That represents both a departmental accomplishment and the fulfillment of a presidential initiative," he said. But it isn't individual accomplishments that keep Pizzella going to work each day -- the reward is public service, he said.
"It's the ability to make a difference in the way government works on behalf of my fellow Americans."
-- Tod Newcombe, Features Editor
Challenging the Status Quo
It may not be completely fair, but certain CIOs will be remembered for a single project: Mark Forman and e-government, George Newstrom and Virginia's IT consolidation program, Gino Menchini and New York City's 311 call center.
Whether he likes it or not, Peter Quinn will best be remembered for open source. Yet Quinn's visionary effort to introduce open source to the public sector has little to do with using free software and everything to do with changing the way government purchases, adopts and implements technology.
Quinn became CIO in September 2002, and at first, his appointment had all the appearances of a very short shelf life. The lame-duck governor at the time had barely two months left in her administration, but fortune shined on Quinn when Mitt Romney, a successful businessman, won the gubernatorial election running on a reform platform.
Romney was determined to try dramatic new approaches to governing, and that included proposing some radical transformations to state government in Massachusetts. Romney saw fit to keep Quinn on as his top technology officer.
Just as Gov. Mark Warner's reform-oriented leadership opened the doors to change IT in Virginia, so too did Romney's new ideas lead to some nontraditional thinking, including the "open policy" announced in late 2003 concerning IT standards and software.
In Quinn, Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance Eric Kriss had the perfect person to lead the charge for changing attitudes and actions within state. Little did he know Quinn would take the initiative to a new level, advocating the principles of open source as a way for other state governments and localities to collaborate on IT, with the ultimate goal of building applications that are shared openly and democratically.
Of course, radical ideas can generate serious opposition. Sure enough, Quinn soon found himself at the center of a controversy as members of the powerful Massachusetts Software Council, legislators and even some advocacy groups slammed the new policy. At one point, he and Kriss were accused of advocating principles of communism.
Though the policy was later modified, Quinn never retreated from his core principles of pushing for change in the way the state procured and used technology.
Well before Quinn became known as an advocate of open source, he spoke strongly about the need for government agencies to leave their silos and join together in communities of interest.
"We are trying to get people to change their thought, to go beyond their traditional boundaries and participate with the other IT professionals in the commonwealth. By doing this we can solve the collective problems and draw on the resources from the peers in the other agencies, which you may not have in our particular area," he told the Center for Digital Government in an interview conducted early in 2003.
Today, Quinn is even more blunt about the need for change, reminding audiences that the "cost of government is not sustainable in its present form." Quinn makes it clear he's not advocating that government walk away from proprietary solutions. He just wants government to start thinking differently and use every tool at its disposal to build solutions that transform how the public sector works. Many in the public-sector IT community talk about doing this, but few actually try to do