February 29, 2008 By Jim Meyers
Las Vegas is one of the most wired cities in America. Ironically that's due in part to its late start in IT. When the city hired Joseph Marcella as its first CIO and director of information technologies 10 years ago, the new department had ground to make up. Bringing in Marcella from the private sector provided a great opportunity.
"We started this process basically with a blank slate," said Marcella, who had previously worked in banking. "Coming to a city without an IT organization and building one, we didn't necessarily build it according to the way government IT was built before. So I never had to unwind any of that."
The banking industry is extremely centralized. Marcella took the same approach by simplifying things across 15 departments. He was determined to make sure a citizen, for example, would only have to give his or her name and address one time when dealing with the city. "From my point of view, I didn't know that you weren't allowed to do that in government, so I just went and did it," Marcella said.
Though it was difficult at times, the city centralized numerous activities. As a result, the city IT department provides more services with the same number of staff as 10 years ago. It's that sort of progress that earned Las Vegas consecutive Best of the Web awards in 2006 and 2007 from the Center for Digital Government.
Despite the success, neither the city nor Marcella is slowing down. "We're always re-evaluating what the city is doing and delivering," he said. That's vital for a municipality that's been adding from 4,000 to 8,000 residents per month.
Las Vegas has been one of America's fastest-growing cities for years now. As that continues, there will be more challenges ahead. But no one seems worried, Marcella said. "We're confident because the foundation is so well laid out."
Marcella said there are three objectives within his IT organization: Give customers what they need; keep systems working at optimum efficiency; and give management the information it needs to run things. It's a simple strategy. And it works.
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