CIO Profile: Joseph Marcella

Las Vegas

by / November 22, 2002
Five years ago, Las Vegas went looking for someone to lead an effort to change the city's approach to IT. Its search ended with the discovery of Joseph Marcella, a private-sector IT professional with 25 years of experience as CIO with two major banks. In Marcella, Las Vegas found a CIO with the qualities it needed to push for technology that works for citizens.

Describe the state of the IT department upon your arrival.
I would call it a rag-tag, fugitive fleet. They had the beginnings of some microcomputing. Everything was mainframe based. Twenty-year-old software and hardware was used to keep the budget down to a minimum and keep the wheels on the wagon. They needed something more than that.

What has changed during your tenure with Las Vegas?
What's not typical for government is to look at each individual department in some sort of horizontal fashion. It's very typical to preserve those things that are individual to each department. We wanted to look at the city not as individual departments but as an enterprise. When we did that, we found folks with their own IT organizations building and doing things in a nonuniform fashion. Typically, if you think about ERP, you think about the financials and all of the ancillary things that go along with that - payables and receivables and all that sort of thing. We don't. That's just the hub, and that's the center of everything else we're doing. That's the necessary infrastructure for everything else to work.

What are your biggest challenges?
Our biggest issues are people issues: The transition of folks within an organization to move them to a new discipline, as well as to stay within the parameters of the rules of a classified culture. That means not only do I have to train them, make them successful, but I also have to migrate their positions. People are reluctant to give up what they know, and what we're doing is something different.

What is your most important asset?
You would normally say the people or the system. But I would say it's the organizational buy-in to the business and enterprise approach. If we did not have management engaged, and all 14 department directors believing that this approach was an enabler and it gives them the tools that they need to conduct city business, then we wouldn't be there.