Santa Fe, N.M., Mayor's Transition Team: IT Department Could Work Smarter

While the needs across every city department vary, IT should operate under one umbrella, said Nicholas Behrmann, one of the three members of the IT group.

by Daniel J. Chacón, McClatchy News Service / July 1, 2014
Mayor Javier Gonzales via Facebook

When a network cable at Santa Fe City Hall is frayed, an employee in the Information Technology and Telecommunications Department will replace it.

Ideally, the department also would examine cables in every IT area of the city government at least once a year, as well as set aside funding for replacements.

“While far from being exemplary, IT at the [city of Santa Fe] is not in immediate danger of catastrophic failure,” the group that examined the city’s information technology concluded in its report.The example illustrates how the department currently functions in a silo rather than as a comprehensive program utilizing best practices, according to a report from one of the nine groups of Mayor Javier Gonzales’ transition team.

“The fundamental deficiency of the program is its lack of inherent discipline required to stand up a high quality, efficient IT program. This has hampered prioritization for obtaining funding for the appropriate projects and maintaining critical infrastructure,” the report states.

While the needs across every city department vary, IT should operate under one umbrella, said Nicholas Behrmann, one of the three members of the IT group.

“What we’re saying is that there are good people doing the jobs in the IT area, but they don’t have a best-practices road map,” he said.

“As somebody pointed out in a meeting with the IT area, they’re very busy doing their jobs, but they don’t have the time to step back and as a group do the planning that will make sure that they’re doing what they’re doing as efficiently and cooperatively as they can,” he said.

Among the group’s short- and long-term recommendations:

• Develop an IT strategy that includes a road map to achieve the mayor’s goals in his first term in office.

• Align IT strategy with the city’s business objectives and supporting budget.

• Set a moratorium on certain projects that are in the pipeline but not under contract.

• Address critical IT infrastructure issues immediately, such as data center deficiencies that includes previously identified problems with systems for temperature control and fire prevention.

• Hire a chief information officer. The city previously tried to fill the position but couldn’t find a candidate who would take an exempt job before the election of a new mayor.

Lisa Martinez, a Facilities Division project administrator who has been in the position on an interim basis since October 2013, said none of the recommendations have been implemented.

“The transition team report is a recommendation. As such, we’re evaluating it,” she said Thursday.

Last month, City Councilor Peter Ives proposed a property tax increase to pay for IT infrastructure, among other needs across the city. The proposal was shelved by his colleagues, who said it was premature and lacked specifics.

Ives said he would continue his efforts to find funding.

“We need to direct some funds there sooner rather than later to get them back up to speed, but also to make sure that we are doing our work at the city as efficiently as possible,” he said.

“It’s kind of like making sure that you keep the tire pressure up, that you do the oil and lube work on a vehicle on a regular basis so that it stays in repair rather than facing the inevitable of having to replace the vehicle or deal with big bills,” he said.

©2014 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)