Education

Meet Bill Bryan, Missouri's New CIO

"The Web is the future and it's here. We just need to catch up to it."

by / April 1, 2009 0

Photo: Bill Bryan, newly appointed CIO of Missouri

Missouri's former Attorney General Jay Nixon and then-Governor Matt Blunt attracted nationwide attention last year as the political opponents battled publicly over e-mail retention policies and other matters. Now that Nixon is in the governor's mansion, some changes are in the cards, including a new CIO. In a recent teleconference with the Center for Digital Government, newly appointed CIO Bill Bryan discussed his plans and the technology agenda of Governor Nixon.

After an 18-year career at the Missouri Attorney General's Office (AGO), Bill Bryan was appointed to the role of state CIO this January by newly elected Governor Jay Nixon. Bryan has been recognized both nationally and internationally for his progressive ideas using next-generation technology in animal agriculture. He is also known for handling complex environmental cases, including the Taum Sauk dam overflow disaster in which he discovered faulty programming logic as one of the causes of the $180 million catastrophe.

As a lawyer, Bryan helped blaze the path to using technology in the AGO. He recalled, during a recent teleconference with the Center for Digital Government, "We weren't quite at the carbon-paper stage, but we were close. Attorney General Nixon, who is now our governor, made me the guinea pig and I was the first attorney in the state of Missouri who had access to our green-screen environment." Bryan saw the advantages and potential productivity that could come from having Internet, word processing, legal research and writing at an attorney's fingertips in the form of desktop computers. Since then, he has been a proponent of using technology to help make government staff more efficient and effective in the way they do business.

Bryan attributes his appointment to the work he and Nixon did to establish Web presence in the AGO.

"We were like a lot of other state agencies with Web pages, [we] had a lot of content but weren't very strong in communicating a consistent message or presence for the Attorney General's Office," said Bryan.

So he hired a webmaster and led a series of projects to develop content and present it in a way that would encourage people to visit the Web site. He wanted to make it a trusted source for information. When the project first started, the AGO Web site had approximately 50,000 unique visitors per month. After completion of the eight-month project, the Web site reached one million unique visits per month and sustained that throughout the rest of Bryan's term in the AGO.

"I think Governor Nixon wanted me to be able to take what we accomplished there and build on it for the state of Missouri. We have Web pages that were, as I like to put it, 'made by bureaucrats, for bureaucrats,' meaning they're functional and there's a lot of information there, but it's very hard for a citizen to find what they are looking for. We want government to be more accessible and less frustrating than what we've got right now on some of our Web sites," said Bryan.

To help move accessibility forward, Bryan has appointed a deputy CIO of Web presence, the nation's first.


Modernization and Mobility

"The Web is the future and it's here. We just have to catch up to it," said Bryan, noting that many government legacy systems are obsolete and will have to be continually up-dated and customized if they are not replaced soon. Another problem with the old system is that the staff who runs them will soon be retiring. It is clear that a transition must be made. During this

transition to newer systems, Bryan also wants the applications to be made accessible on mobile devices and platforms.

"The trend today sees browsers such as Safari increasing rapidly," he continued. "This tells us that people are accessing our Web site using mobile devices such as iPhones. It is a trend that should not be ignored because if government is not providing services and information this way, it is not serving its constituents in the best way possible."

Should the need arise, employees could also benefit from mobile technology to work from home, from a hotel or from the road. "We want our employees to be able to take advantage of these working moments. Whereas you had to get up and drive to the office to get something done -- this shouldn't have to be the case. We think mobility will help people be more productive and enjoy a better quality of life," said Bryan.

Communicating across agencies within the state is another issue the new CIO faces. "We need to communicate with people the way they want to be communicated with," said Bryan. "I've got 11,000 people in the IT field supporting the Missouri government, and they all felt like they didn't know what was going on in the CIO's office, or even on the other side of the organization."

Consolidation

Bryan began to consolidate the state's IT budget. The $250 million budget was split into 154 separate bank accounts making it difficult to balance a budget. Once the money was compiled into one account, managing the money became much easier.

Bryan also wants the state to communicate to and from the public in a coordinated fashion rather than as 14 separate agencies. The first phase is to improve the look and feel of the state Web sites. They don't have to be identical but should be similar enough that the public can search any state Web site with a familiar set of tools. For example, the method for filling out and filing a form on the Department of Revenue's Web site should be similar to filling out a form on the Labor and Industrial Relation's Web site. "Consistency is key," said Bryan.

Bill's IT 'Wish List'

In response to a question by the Center for Digital Government's Paul Taylor about his "IT wish list," Bryan said: Unified communication." Including mobile accessibility.

He also wants to focus on an accelerated approach to enterprise resource planning. "To have the funding to replace the Legacy systems in a relevant time frame would be a giant step in the right direction," he said.

Relationships with Vendors

Bryan explained that vendors with the traditional 'hard-sell' approach will not get very far with him. "I can sit through the hard-sell and say no with the best of them, because as a lawyer, that's what I did for 18 years. What really makes an impression on me are the ones that have the resources and the interest to do more than the sales pitch. I appreciate someone who has something to teach me and is really willing to take the time to explain it." One thing he would like to do is organize 'Vendor Days.' He feels he could be more productive and would be able to give more time and attention to each vendor if he didn't' have to jump from place to place just to meet with them. "If I knew that every Thursday I was going to meet with five vendors, I could plan my schedule around that and I think it would work really well," said Bryan.

The E-Mail Retention Wars

Bryan said that even though the

y up-dated and customized if they are not replaced soon. Another problem with the old system is that the staff who runs them will soon be retiring. It is clear that a transition must be made. During this transition to newer systems, Bryan also wants the applications to be made accessible on mobile devices and platforms.

"The trend today sees browsers such as Safari increasing rapidly," he continued. "This tells us that people are accessing our Web site using mobile devices such as iPhones. It is a trend that should not be ignored because if government is not providing services and information this way, it is not serving its constituents in the best way possible."

Should the need arise, employees could also benefit from mobile technology to work from home, from a hotel or from the road. "We want our employees to be able to take advantage of these working moments. Whereas you had to get up and drive to the office to get something done -- this shouldn't have to be the case. We think mobility will help people be more productive and enjoy a better quality of life," said Bryan.

Communicating across agencies within the state is another issue the new CIO faces. "We need to communicate with people the way they want to be communicated with," said Bryan. "I've got 11,000 people in the IT field supporting the Missouri government, and they all felt like they didn't know what was going on in the CIO's office, or even on the other side of the organization."

Consolidation

Bryan began to consolidate the state's IT budget. The $250 million budget was split into 154 separate bank accounts making it difficult to balance a budget. Once the money was compiled into one account, managing the money became much easier.

Bryan also wants the state to communicate to and from the public in a coordinated fashion rather than as 14 separate agencies. The first phase is to improve the look and feel of the state Web sites. They don't have to be identical but should be similar enough that the public can search any state Web site with a familiar set of tools. For example, the method for filling out and filing a form on the Department of Revenue's Web site should be similar to filling out a form on the Labor and Industrial Relation's Web site. "Consistency is key," said Bryan.

Bill's IT 'Wish List'

In response to a question by the Center for Digital Government's Paul Taylor about his "IT wish list," Bryan said: Unified communication." Including mobile accessibility.

He also wants to focus on an accelerated approach to enterprise resource planning. "To have the funding to replace the Legacy systems in a relevant time frame would be a giant step in the right direction," he said.

Relationships with Vendors

Bryan explained that vendors with the traditional 'hard-sell' approach will not get very far with him. "I can sit through the hard-sell and say no with the best of them, because as a lawyer, that's what I did for 18 years. What really makes an impression on me are the ones that have the resources and the interest to do more than the sales pitch. I appreciate someone who has something to teach me and is really willing to take the time to explain it." One thing he would like to do is organize 'Vendor Days.' He feels he could be more productive and would be able to give more time and attention to each vendor if he didn't' have to jump from place to place just to meet with them. "If I knew that every Thursday I was going to meet with five vendors, I could plan my schedule around that and I think it would work really well," said Bryan.

The E-Mail Retention Wars

Bryan said that even though the e-mail archiving battle between the former and current governors generated a lot of controversy and negativity there is a positive development that came from it. "We have developed a solution for archiving and retaining e-mail that will be useful when it comes time to respond to discovery and litigation. It is also very useful for everyday work when an employee needs to find information quickly," Bryan said.

Currently, the system takes every e-mail that is sent or received and journals it for future reference. As the rule stands, it will be saved for 999,999 years -- in other words, forever. While Bryan thinks this may not be the best way of spending IT dollars, he thinks they do have the tools to manage a system which will properly classify e-mail as it is coming in and going out for a determined amount of time.

Legislator's Readiness for Government Modernization

As the general population becomes more familiar with technology, Bryan believes they will elect people to represent them in public office who are also tech-savvy. The trend toward modernization is improving, but Bryan says he can be doing more to help educate Missourians on the benefits of the use of technology in government.

"I've got to do a better job of communicating about technology and why it is important we invest time and energy and funds into the modernization of the way government works," said Bryan. "We train and promote people who are our best technicians but perhaps not out best communicators or best leaders. We need to have effective communicators to promote technology."