Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer named Aaron Sandeen the state’s top technology official in March 2011, just months after revealing that her 2012 budget proposal would merge the state’s Government Information Technology Agency under the Department of Administration. As state CIO and deputy director of the Administration Department, Sandeen oversees the Arizona Strategic Enterprise Technology office, which is replacing large legacy systems and training staff to meet new IT skill requirements. Government Technology caught up with Sandeen at the NASCIO annual conference in October to get more insight into these initiatives.
You have some big legacy replacement projects underway. How are you approaching those?
We’ve been working on the ERP replacement for more than two years. I said as we were going through the process that I don’t want to be the last state to buy a legacy platform — but we might be one of the last states to buy a legacy platform. However, it will be hosted in CGI’s data center; I would say it’s kind of a hybrid. It’s interesting because a lot has changed in just a two-year period. The RFP for our offender management system is pointing toward having it hosted someplace else. This is a big step for a corrections department — being willing to give up that control and have a vendor manage the system.
You’re in a different business as you adopt hosted solutions. What’s the impact on your organization and what kind of skills do you need?
Our goal is to take existing staff members who are responsible for infrastructure, maintenance, patching and support, and move them into working on oversight, monitoring, contract management and requirements management. We’re really trying to tune ourselves to be a services broker-type organization. We work with the business entities to identify the most appropriate solution.
There are a lot of people on our team who can be reskilled for that, and they’re excited to do that. Working with the governor’s office last year, we invested $144,000 into training. Instead of sending one or two people to California or New York, we brought the training here. We ended up doing seven classes, and we had almost 300 participants. In all, it was about 45,000 hours’ worth of training — and it cost about $3 an hour when you add it all up. It’s great for morale; the employees love it.
More states seem to be increasing their investment in staff training. Is it a trend?
I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand. If you look at what’s been happening, we came off a pretty bad economy. Training was cut, staff’s been drastically reduced over the past five to seven years. Now the economy’s picking up. So the IT industry in Arizona is getting hot again. It’s harder for us to recruit, so we have to look for creative things that we have going for us. Training is absolutely one of them, and the projects that we’re working on are actually very interesting.
Between the workforce impacts and the system replacements, how do you juggle the different missions and keep everything running?
Portfolio management and risk management become more important, as well as maintaining relationships with the governor’s office and the Legislature to keep everybody up-to-date. Execution becomes absolutely critical because you have to maintain that reputation and those relationships so that you can continue that investment.