Des Moines City Manager Eric Anderson, One of Government Technology's 25 'Doers Dreamers and Drivers'

'Knowledge of technology is fundamental; it's a prerequisite to good management.'

by / March 4, 2005
Eric Anderson speaks about technology more passionately than some CIOs.

"Information technology can't be something you just give lip service to," he said. "It has to be part of your vision for how you're going to work and how you're going to accomplish the mission of your organization. It has to be part of absolutely everything."

That conviction helps explain why Des Moines consistently earns recognition for innovative and effective use of technology, culminating last year with a top finish in the Center for Digital Government's Digital Cities Survey.

Anderson and Des Moines CIO Michael Armstrong -- named to Government Technology's Top 25 for 2002 -- teamed to create a state-of-the-art IT infrastructure that includes an enterprise seat management program for desktop technology and a citywide network that experienced less than 30 minutes of unscheduled downtime in 2003.

Things weren't always this good, however. Anderson didn't even have a PC on his desk when he joined the city government in 1995 -- neither did other managers. "We had old batch processing. We didn't have any kind of integrated systems," he said. "It was very rudimentary."

Determined to break with the past, Anderson formed a committee to create a strategic technology plan -- and he excluded the city's existing technologists from that group. "It was done by department heads, managers and front-line people," he said. "That was a great committee, and they came up with an absolutely terrific plan."

Anderson acknowledged the process was "wrenching" for what was then known as the city Data Processing Department, but the results were worth the pain, he said. The city hired Armstrong in 1997 to implement the plan, and Des Moines has made steady progress since.

Unlike some of his peers, Anderson frequently attends IT conferences to sharpen his skills. "Knowledge of technology is fundamental; it's a prerequisite to good management," he said, adding that public officials should take a long-range view of IT planning and deployment.

"Technology is something you build, then rebuild, then rebuild again," he said. "It's not our task to finish the job. It's our task to keep it going."

Congratulations to this year's group of "Doers, Dreamers and Drivers, who appear in the March issue of Government Technology magazine.