Rebecca Heidepriem, Wisconsin CIO

Last summer, Gov. Scott McCallum signed the 2001-2003 Wisconsin budget. For the first time, it included the Department of Electronic Government. On Oct. 1, 2001, Rebecca Heidepriem assumed the role of the state's first cabinet-level CIO. A 19-year veteran

by / April 16, 2002
You were a member of Gov. McCallum's task force. What were the discussions like that led him to create this post?

The discussion centered around the need for leadership and coordinated efforts. It's just very hard to move forward and be fast with IT initiatives if you don't have a coordinated effort.

When the governor assigned you to this post, what did he say to you?

He gave me his vision and just said, "Do it." He understood that I had the skills necessary to do it, and he had confidence in me. This is a huge priority for him; that's made it a lot easier to do because it's very important that this is successful. So I have his support and I've got the freedom to do it how I think it should be done.

What were your thoughts upon taking this post?

I was very excited about it. I knew this position was being created just from being on the task force, so I had quite a bit of time to look at it. It was very hard for me to leave Xerox, as I had very strong loyalties to the company. But the ability to be the first at this position and really make a difference with many more people than I ever could have done at Xerox was very attractive to me.

How important was it to look to the private sector to fill this spot?

I think it [was] extremely important; the reason I say that is because any visionary CIOs today realize that you must put business first and have business drive IT versus the other way around. So most CIOs are reorganizing their organizations with a business focus. In this organization, we're really creating a new department. So it's important to set priorities and leadership.

How has the transition been from private- to public-sector work?

It's been very interesting for me. There are so many similarities that people would be surprised to hear about. And then there are several antiquated processes that really slow someone down and that's just the bureaucratic side of government.

How is having a CIO helping Wisconsin e-government?

Initially, we're starting off by setting a vision, and that's what everyone sees right now so that they can understand that there's a plan in place. That plan includes recommending collaboration wherever we can.

What do you spend most of your day on?

One is obviously the internal meetings and the reorganizing efforts that are ongoing. Two is the speeches and the interviews. And three -- I've been assigned to two task forces by the governor; one is the economic task force and the other is the domestic preparedness task force.

What have been your biggest challenges in your short tenure?

I think just time, primarily, and getting my arms around the whole organization and reorganizing the efforts so far. We're getting close to having that in place. My next challenge will be coordinating the efforts of the internal agencies.