In Wayne County, Mich., which encompasses Detroit, the Department of Information Technology is charged with connecting more than two million citizens with their government. Carol Steffani believes communication is the key to doing that successfully. This is evidenced by the department's newsletter "The Source Code," which is distributed to county employees every three months. With the recent launch of the function-driven Web site Steffani is seeing to it that the citizens of Wayne County are well informed.
How important is communicating your initiatives with Wayne County employees in other agencies?
"Communication is very important because a lot of people don't understand the technology. If you're going to communicate in techno babble, it doesn't make sense. It's absolutely critical that people understand what you're doing. They don't need to understand at the tech level, but they need to understand at the business level. We have regular user-group meetings at different levels with different targeted groups. We have business meetings with the heads of the departments and their key technology people just to go through what other business solutions [they're] trying to solve and what - we're doing for [their] department."
Have any county initiatives crossed over into Detroit?
There are a lot of initiatives that cross over the boundaries. There are no geographic or political boundaries, and so there's been a lot of positioning right now to be able to work together on a lot more things. It makes a lot of sense. Because we'll be sharing some of the networks and we'll be sharing some of the data and having some commonality in data warehouses.
What challenges does serving more than two million people present?
"It's hard to find systems out there that meet the needs of the county. When you're talking land record systems, you're not talking systems that have land records that are as old as ours. When you're talking criminal justice, you're not talking about other counties' systems that have the level of crime rates we might have. Or activity in the prosecutor's office or activity in the medical examiner's office or activity in the juvenile facility. So it's trying to match what's already out there that's robust enough to meet the needs of a community our size with the kind of activity we have in our community."
What do you spend most of your day on?
"I spend way too much time in meetings. There are a lot of meetings countywide where they have business problems and they are bringing me into more and more meetings because they're trying to say, 'Is there a technology component that we ought to be considering?' But that's very good because it used to be they'd get all the way through this and say, 'Oh yeah, can you do this?' And this way, the idea of 'how is technology integrated into this solution' is a lot better."
How do you define your management style?
"I try to manage for results. I try to manage for the business solution. I'm not interested in a technology solution just for the sake of technology. It's got to be the business need. Problems are business problems and technology is a tool. And I let the people do it. Basically, we make sure we all understand what the business need is and what the business problem is and what the result is that we have to achieve and then they go back and figure out how to do it."