Local CIOs Network to Keep Tech in the MIX (Contributed)

The Metropolitan Information Exchange, a small, prestigious group of local-level chief information officers, has released its annual list of priorities and challenges to help public-sector leaders understand the CIO role.

by / January 15, 2019

In 1968, when some of the country’s foremost technologists were working at NASA to put a man on the moon, a group of local gov tech leaders met in New York City for the first time to informally exchange ideas about common challenges. Computers were just beginning to emerge as powerful data processing tools to help the public sector, but already there was a need to learn who was doing what and how. This marked the beginning of the Metropolitan Information Exchange (MIX).

While not as well-known as NASCIO — the National Association of State Chief Information Officers — MIX has quietly grown to become a prestigious and tight-knit CIO organization with membership limited to 64 members around the U.S. Some past presidents of MIX include Bill Kehoe, CIO, Los Angeles County; Otto Doll, former CIO, Minneapolis; Brad Hartig, CIO, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Bill Greeves, CIO, Wake County, N.C.; Laura Fucci, CIO, Henderson County, Nev.; and Mike Taylor, CIO, Pitt County, N.C., who is the current president of MIX.

Think of MIX as a premier networking club for local government CIOs. Information shared between members through open dialog has great value. Despite members coming from different-sized governments with different types of organizational structures, governance models and varied resources, they share a commitment to helping each other as they face similar challenges every day.   

A key element of these exchanges is the annual conference. In 2018, members of MIX met in Scottsdale, Ariz., where they created a list of information technology priorities and challenges. The list, members agreed, represents an ideal resource for communicating with city and county leaders about the role of a local CIO and the operations they run to sustain government.

Since MIX members are committed to working with community leaders to solve problems and create value for citizens, they hope the list illustrates to local government leaders how local government CIOs impact day-to-day government and its ability to serve and engage in new and innovative ways. Additionally, the list of priorities can help government leaders understand what city and county CIOs do as well as explain the kinds of IT investments they are making and why they are important to the operations of city and county government.

Priorities

  • Technology Infrastructure – Managing and running operations for all government programs and services. Managing life cycles of numerous systems (legacy, midlife, and new).
  • Cybersecurity – Preventing and mitigating incidents; and protecting infrastructure, including technical monitoring, assessing risk, training users, planning mitigations, procuring tools, developing and testing security controls, responding to and recovering from cyberincidents.
  • IT Transformation – Fostering organizational change; and considering and modifying IT organizational structures to meet ongoing and emerging business and architectural needs of local government.
  • Governance – Developing, running and leading enterprise governance for IT investments across all levels and departments.
  • IT System Modernization – Spearheading the move off of older technology to ensure continuity of programs and services. Gathering requirements, decision-making, procurement, deployment, and training.
  • Social Media – Defining and managing social media presence; and supporting programs by informing platform selection, developing policies, and providing guidance to departments using social media.
  • Innovation and Smart City Programs – Leading, or playing a key role in, smart city programs by leveraging data and technology to achieve social impact. 
  • Data – Building and maintaining a robust data environment, including the development of an overall data strategy and data-centric culture, with key elements: technical infrastructure, developing data management processes and competencies, and defining and implementing department data literacy.
  • Workforce – Recruiting and retaining skilled IT staff even with salary, requirement, and policy limitations.
  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery – Preparing for cyber-, weather and man-made incidents by developing and testing business continuity and disaster recovery plans to ensure programs and services stay online.
  • Citizen Engagement – Leading and supporting departments through informing platform selection, participating in developing policies, and, in some cases, engaging citizens. 
  • Emerging Technologies – Preparing for and assessing emerging technologies to understand how technologies will impact networks, overall department workflow, and then, where appropriate, deploying those technologies.
  • Emergency Communications – Developing an interoperable emergency network; and working with public safety agencies in funding, building, and maintaining interoperable technical and organizational infrastructure. This requires working across levels of government and municipal boundaries.

Challenges 

  • Expanding Portfolios – As portfolios expand in demand and diversity — including the Internet of Things and connectivity efforts — CIOs are often working to meet differing and increasing needs with only the resources available in their departments.   
  • Cyber “Boots on the Ground” – Cybersecurity prevention and mitigation requires a distinct set of operational and strategic skills. Many cities and counties, especially smaller ones, don’t have the skilled staff required to carry out these functions. CIOs must work to spread out cyber-responsibilities among staff with competing priorities.  
  • Shadow IT – When IT is purchased and implemented without informing the IT department, it becomes “Shadow IT” infrastructure. This creates security, interoperability and long-term sustainability issues. Even governments with established governance processes find technology is purchased, built and/or used without IT department notification.  
  • IT Governance – A government-wide IT investment governance body, structure, and process can be the cornerstone of sound decision-making. While many cities and counties have this in place, it does not always operate as envisioned. CIOs are challenged to get government leadership to commit to, and routinely invest in, the governance process. 
  • Investment in Infrastructure – Typically, back office projects — while necessary to support many programs and services — are neither eye-catching nor well-understood. CIOs must know when underlying structures are weakening. However, even after communicating with leadership about these issues, they often still have difficulty getting critical investments funded.  
Meghan Cook

Meghan Cook is program director at CTG UAlbany, a research institute at the State University of New York at Albany that aims to transform public services through innovations in management, policy and technology.