CIO Profile: Don Allen

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

by / December 20, 2002
When Don Allen joined the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in August, he came with a business-like approach to IT management and a plan to pull the DHHS together through technology. As director of the department's Division of Information Resource Management, Allen leads a staff 157 strong. Once in office, he immediately implemented his plan by exploring issues such as seat management and outsourcing legacy systems.

What is your approach to managing the department?
The business approach we're taking is performance-based management that includes performance-based contracts, where we concentrate on the outcome that we want. Payment is based on that outcome; payment is only made once the outcome is achieved. What's been done in the past is pay high-priced consultants by the hour. Instead of time and materials, we're going to performance-based contracting.

What problems did you identify and what actions are you taking to solve them?
I saw a lack of accountability to customers on the part of Information Resource Management. Technology was trying to drive them, instead of them telling us what they needed from technology. The business units have to be the driving force in everything we do. They have the programmatic skills; they understand what they do and why they do it; they understand the federal and state laws. They need our assistance to implement. I'm here to build a strong efficient team to assist the programmatic divisions in accomplishing their business goals through technology.

What is your relationship with local jurisdictions?
[It] is very inclusive. Yesterday I met with the directors of the county departments of social services. I got their input on what their needs were, what their complaints were, what their likes were, so we could help coordinate a concerted IT effort across the state. I go to the business divisions personally. I go up and down the halls here, so I can get the feel for what the needs and wants are for [those] we're trying to serve.

Give an example of how you are dealing with budget constraints.
We're looking at a major initiative called NC FAST (Families Accessing Service through Technology). Because of budget constraints, we're having to look at alternative ways that we can try to achieve as many goals of the NC FAST project as we can. Instead of re-creating something -- a program -- we might have to use an existing program with some enhancements instead of building it from the ground up.