August 18, 2008 By David Raths
The Consensus Builder
CIO, Clark County, Nev.
Laura Fucci admits when she left her position as CTO of MGM Mirage in December 2006 to become CIO of Clark County, Nev., she didn't realize the size of the challenge awaiting her.
The previous CIO had been gone several months, along with half of the IT management team. Forty of 120 IT positions in her centralized IT organization were empty. "I also came from an IT organization that was very centralized to one that is federated, so it requires more collaboration and a lot of herding cats," she said.
Clark County faces many challenges itself. The size of New Jersey, it's one of the fastest-growing counties in the country, adding 5,000 residents a month. Home to the Las Vegas Strip, the area sees 40 million tourists each year. The rapid development pace puts a strain on county services and the IT infrastructure that supports them.
But all those challenges played into one of Fucci's strengths: team building. The 45-year-old, who earlier in her career worked in IT for engineering firm CH2M Hill, describes herself as a consensus builder. "Some new CIOs come in and it's 'my way or the highway,'" she said, "but I come from employee-empowered and employee-owned companies. I like it when staff members bring ideas to the table."
Her first order of business was breaking down barriers, not just between central and federated IT groups, but within centralized IT itself. "I spent the first year building bridges and burning down walls," Fucci said. "I started a technology-collaboration forum between distributed and centralized IT to work on issues and standards."
Fucci believed that before focusing on how new technologies could be applied to solve some of the county's problems, she had to shore up IT service delivery. "You have to walk before you can run," she said. She believes building credibility is the most important thing for a new CIO. "You have to prove that you will indeed do what you had said you would do," said Fucci.
Using the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework, her team prioritized the top 10 actions it could take to improve customer service. "We brainstormed over what we needed to deliver and how to measure it," she said. "Since then, we have made significant improvements. We study metrics each week and get feedback from the county manager and other executives."
Fucci is also re-establishing a defunct project-management office, which she says will give her group greater visibility and help identify risks before projects go off course.
"What tends to happen is that IT gets enamored with a tool, and you end up with it sitting on a shelf without a plan for how it solves any particular problem," she said. "I am working to change that mentality so that we understand the problem before we buy the tool."
As is fitting for Las Vegas, she regularly assesses the county's willingness to experiment. Her previous employer, MGM Mirage, made extensive use of leading-edge technology and was not opposed to taking risks.
"In a county government situation, spending taxpayer dollars, there's a more conservative attitude," she said, "and I am constantly gauging the business side's willingness to try new things."
You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to