When Michael Inman became Kentucky's CIO in 2004, he faced a state hiring freeze and a central IT office that was very much a "stovepipe," as he puts it.

Also at the start of Inman's term, 40 percent of the state work force was projected to retire by 2008. Given the state government work force turnover in 2005 of about 20 percent, Kentucky was forced to find ways to compensate for the shrinking institutional knowledge base.

Inman discussed with Government Technology how he has worked to overcome these challenges over the past two years, and what the state is doing on the homeland security front.

What have you done to compensate for the work force issues faced by so many public-sector agencies?

We invested in a significant upgrade to our service desk, our network and the data center. We built the commonwealth's first true network operations center.

On the personnel side, we got approval to fill the vacant managers' positions, and to hire many of them from outside. We developed close relationships with the seven public universities in the commonwealth, instituting a new intern/co-op program with the hope that many of these students would apply to work here after graduation.

We pursued opportunities to engage the university faculties in training our staff. We embraced training and certification, including ensuring that all project managers are at least pursuing project manager professional certification. We embraced the Information Technology Infrastructure Library's IT Service Model as our basis. A complementing enterprise architecture framework was key and essential to initiating this change.

What were the impediments to getting that done?

It was mostly cultural and educational barriers that we faced when we first started down this path.

What we have accomplished to date represents a cultural change of the first order. Many of the folks who are now key and essential to IT in the state didn't start their careers in IT. They did not have the benefit young people have today to learn IT in a theoretical sense before arriving in the workplace.

Mixing young college students with the work force had a secondary success in igniting a desire to learn from many of our more experienced workers. It took a lot of communication to get employees to see where we were going. In the private world, there is a lot more emphasis and value placed on development of the work force, and on motivating employees to higher achievement. In the public sector, you rely quite often on the undeveloped sense of the public good.

The governor directed your office to establish a subworking group within the Kentucky Wireless Interoperability Executive Committee (KWIEC) to partner with SAFECOM and create a plan that would allow Kentucky to complete its statewide public safety communications and interoperability infrastructure. What exactly will this mean and what's your responsibility here?

The KWIEC is a statutorily mandated committee that focuses on issues related to homeland security and public safety communications interoperability. The members are mandated by position in statute or are appointed by the governor. The committee operates under the auspices of my office, and I appoint the chairman.

The directive to put together the subworking group from the KWIEC came about because Kentucky is one of two states to be awarded a SAFECOM grant to assist us with voice interoperability for homeland security and public safety.

SAFECOM visited Kentucky over the last year, met with local and state leaders, developed local workgroups, and assessed business requirements. This was very much a collaborative process. The working group -- what we call the task force on voice interoperability -- will take a report from SAFECOM and draft a plan for providing a permanent voice interoperability solution across jurisdictional boundaries for the commonwealth.

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor