The tight economy is forcing local governments to make do with fewer resources, so local CIOs have been asked to be masters of multitasking. Hiring freezes shorten the bench in many agencies, which forces capable staff to take on extra work.

This has made for curious combinations, but the hodgepodge of tasks taken on by many CIOs may give them a unique ability to influence decision-making in their jurisdictions.

Communicating Locally

Judi Zito, CIO of Miami-Dade County, Fla., does all usual CIO work -- and a few things more.

"I have not just the technology department reporting to me, but I have the Communications Department reporting to me too," Zito said. She oversees media relations, the county's television station, marketing, outreach efforts and special events.

The county manager aligned the Communications Department under Zito, in part, because her education was in communications. She also worked in the county's Communications Department for three years while serving as the county's e-government program manager. Zito's work in the department includes managing the county's Web portal content and Web team, she said, which was transferred from the IT Department to the Communications Department in 2000.

"Our current county manager was then our budget director and assistant county director during those years," she said. "He was familiar with my experience both in technology and communications, so when he made his staff assignments, it was a logical fit."

The convergence in communications technologies makes a CIO a good fit to oversee a communications department, she said, and Miami-Dade County is making changes to its Communications Department to give it a broader role -- including marketing and organizational branding -- and cultivate more of a corporate communications function for the department.

Part of that focus on corporate communications is molding an enterprise communication mindset of separate agencies that are accustomed to marketing themselves.

"We really hadn't expanded on the role of corporate communications as well as marketing," Zito said. "We have a marketing department in transit. We have a marketing department in aviation and so forth. We're not looking at consolidating all of those, but we're trying to say, 'From an organizational perspective, how should we be proceeding with marketing, branding and identity?'"

Communicating enterprise messages, such as the county's strategic plan, to rank and file county staff also is part of the corporate communications mindset, she said.

"How do you take a strategic plan, things like business planning and performance measurements, and help translate them into a message that a park attendant can relate to? And understand how they contribute to the overall plan of the county?" Zito said. "It's a big challenge to communicate strategic planning and the related concepts in a way the average employee can understand."

She compared the county Communications Department's evolution to similar departments in companies like IBM, which drive what those companies do on the Internet, internally and externally. Miami-Dade County's e-workplace initiative is an example of this new corporate communications function in the public sector.

"We're taking what we've done on the external side of our portal for the public and implementing something similar internally so we have a lot of services online for our employees," she said.

It's natural to presume an HR department would be responsible for educating staff about this sort of tool, Zito said, but that responsibility shifted to corporate communications offices because they understand the need to show workers the benefits of new internal services in order to build acceptance.

Public Face

In Tucson, Ariz., CIO Todd Sander also has his hands full.

"Has anybody else said they're in charge of garbage truck maintenance?" he asked. "We're trying to get somebody else to come in and

Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor