February 29, 2008 By Chad Vander Veen
Photo: Teri Takai addresses the CIO Academy in Sacramento on Tuesday.
Teri Takai, California's new CIO, fielded questions from agency officials about her expectations and experiences since touring the Golden State, during the annual CIO Academy, an event intended to hone technology leadership in the public sector.
The two-day, invitation-only event this week featured an impressive lineup of sessions and speakers, including keynotes from former astronaut Sally Ride, who was the first American woman in space, as well as former Marine and Al-Jazeera English spokesman Josh Rushing.
However, many attendees were particularly interested in what Takai, the former Michigan CIO, had to say about her future plans for California.
Takai fielded questions from Department of Technology Services Director P.K. Agarwal and the audience. Agarwal quizzed Takai regarding the half-dozen weeks she has been in California and what she has learned in that short time. Takai said she found a strong desire for change within the IT community and among state executives.
"I think there are a number of things here that many people are interested in doing differently," Takai said. "The governor is very committed to wanting to look at information technology. He's very focused on the importance of information technology. When you talk with him, he very much sees IT as a vital part of the infrastructure."
With three years left in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's second term in office, Agarwal asked Takai how the relatively short timeframe would affect her strategies for state IT. Takai said the tight deadline offers an opportunity for change because it demands a sink-or-swim approach.
Takai was asked to compare the condition of IT in Michigan versus California. Takai said the most significant difference is the fact that Michigan has consolidated its state IT operations while California is still struggling with consolidation efforts. Takai attributed some of the disparity to the difference in size and scope of the two states.
The CIO also said she felt state agencies in Michigan had developed a good understanding of what technology could do on an enterprise level. In California, the prevailing attitude is largely agency-specific.
"The silos and the chimneys in the business areas are actually much more embedded than what I had hoped," she said. "The departments are more solidified than I had thought. This is my early impression though.
"I think it's up to us as technology professionals to be able to bridge the gap and talk to the business about technology and how it makes a difference," she added.
Other issues Takai tackled during the session included getting the state Legislature to better understand where technology dollars are going and helping lawmakers to understand state IT as an enterprisewide operation. Takai also addressed long-standing concerns that the procurement process in California is slow and inefficient, a situation that conflicts with what she says is Schwarzenegger's disdain for things that take too long to accomplish.
In wrapping up the 40-minute session, Takai said one of her primary objectives this year is getting a clearer picture of what the state's inner IT workings really look like.
"I think we really need to spend some time looking at architecture within the state," she said, "For 2008, the one thing I want to do is really build a picture of what IT is doing for the state of California. I want to get a handle on our infrastructure. Right now we're doing many things redundantly. I'm very concerned about the state of our networks."
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