After seven years as North Dakota's CIO, Lisa Feldner will step down on May 31 to work with the state's University System as the vice chancellor of IT and institutional research. Her stretch as CIO is the current second-longest among state CIOs, beat only by Nebraska CIO Brenda Decker, who has held her position for about eight years. Feldner will be replaced by Deputy CIO Mike Ressler, who will take an interim CIO position, a position he held with the state's Information Technology Department before Feldner was appointed in 2006.
“I wasn’t looking for a different job,” Feldner said. “I really enjoyed the CIO role. The counselor came recruiting and [it was] kind of one of those deals where they make you an offer pretty hard to refuse.” Feldner won’t have to move far, however, as her new position will take her a couple of floors up in the same building.
The close proximity will provide the opportunity for Feldner to collaborate with Ressler and her old department on ongoing and upcoming projects, which will help as the state focuses on internal development. After a few bad vendor experiences, Feldner said, state legislators pushed the IT department to develop more of its software in-house. “Mike’s going to have his hands full with all the projects we’re trying to develop ourselves -- the integrated eligibility system, for example, and the new secretary of state application. I’m hopeful that they name him permanent CIO.”
Photo: Lisa Feldner, CIO, North Dakota. Photo by Pamela Smette.
Looking back at her time as CIO, Feldner cited several of her department's accomplishments, noting that employee satisfaction was raised when she arrived and stayed consistently high during her tenure. North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, and state workers have about a 4 percent turnover rate, which Feldner said is proof that they’ve kept them happy. “I’m proud of that," she said. "Unlike other states, our economy is booming, so we need to keep our employees tremendously happy so we can keep them."
About once a year, Feldner said the state asked employees about how they felt about their place of employment and also what they wanted to change. After looking at what everyone wanted, Feldner said, they gave it to them. Employees asked for the option to telecommute and have flex-time, so they got it. Employees wanted new chairs, so they got them. “It’s pretty benign, but when you give them different chairs, it’s a big deal,” she said. “I think that helps with morale and retention.”
Past technology projects Feldner's proud of include development of the state’s health information exchange, which was started during the Bush administration but didn’t receive funding until recently. The state is now in the process of attaching more health-care providers to the system, she said. She also oversaw virtualization of the state’s servers.
The state’s longitudinal data system is also going nicely, Feldner said, and all hosting for state agencies has been consolidated, which is one of the reasons she was chosen for the position with the state’s higher education system. The University System has already consolidated its email, she said, but there are more opportunities for consolidation and with her history with the state’s IT department, collaboration should be easy. In fact, Feldner added that there’s no animosity within their steering committee, which has allowed collaboration to flourish. “It’s a close working relationship,” she said. “Unlike some of my [neighboring states], for instance, who don’t get along with their higher-ed counterparts, we get along great.”
As CIO, Feldner oversaw the consolidation of all political subdivisions, the K-12 system, higher education and state agencies to use the same identity management solution. Her experience with that type of consolidation should translate into gaining the same types of efficiencies among the state’s 11 universities, as she searches for solutions with her old department.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple addressed the management change in a press release: “Mike has done an excellent job over the last 16 years serving ITD and the responsibilities it supports. The combination of his technical expertise and leadership abilities will enable the department to continue offering quality technology services for the state. I would also like to thank Lisa Feldner for her service to the department. She did an outstanding job overseeing the many advances the department made during her tenure.”
Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.