December 5, 2012 By Terry Bledsoe, CIO, Catawba County, N.C.
Editor's note: In this series, Public CIO set forth to find answers from several of the nation’s top CIOs who have served or currently are in state, local and federal positions. These firsthand accounts are about how establishing partnerships, trusting and letting go, investing in people, and assessing situations have all been instrumental to smart decision-making.
When reflecting on the decisions I’ve made as a CIO, there have been ones that I am very proud of and ones that have changed the direction of the organization. Recently I’ve made decisions to move to VoIP; put in redundant infrastructure incorporating storage area networks and virtual computing; and ventured into the cloud. Looking back, I chose Ethernet over token ring, Microsoft instead of Novell, and to support video conferencing in the early ’90s when it was extremely expensive.
But as I look at all the technology changes that I have lived through, I realize that all of them were just temporary. Many were just steps to the next technology. Some were fleeting innovations for the moment but quickly replaced by a new gadget or program. Hopefully they were good decisions for that point in time. But were any of them the smartest thing I ever did as a CIO? Definitely not.
The smartest thing I’ve done as CIO is to constantly invest in people. I want my team to be growing, learning new things and putting that knowledge to work. This is the only way teams become truly innovative, truly world class.
This is how we have been very successful at getting our customers to first buy into new technologies and then support them. They have seen the many creative solutions that my team has envisioned and brought to reality. They have experienced the energy of finding that one thing that has taken the hassle out of their workday, the one thing that has allowed them to be more efficient and the one thing that perhaps sets them apart from other agencies.
And have I ever been disappointed? Of course! But by constantly investing in people, I find that there are many more successes than disappointments. I usually find that when one of my team members fails, they are more disappointed in themselves than I am in them. Every project has risks and everyone fails at some point, but the secret is to learn from it and grow stronger.
So while my past technology decisions will have a limited life, the investment I have made in people will have a more far-reaching impact in today’s world and in the future. That investment is definitely the smartest thing I have done as a CIO.
Fralick is the former CIO of North Carolina -- and current CIO of the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice, and deputy CIO for the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Irey is the CIO of Overland Park, Kan.
Roper is the CIO of Raleigh, N.C.
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