Robin Siss is the first commissioner of Vermont's newly created Department of Information and Innovation. Siss brings 25 years of private-sector experience in companies such as IDX, Xerox, Alltel, Central Vermont Public Service and Vermont National Bank to the task of creating Vermont's technology future.
How will your private-sector experience translate to public service?
In the private sector, specifically in the banking sector because it is a federally regulated environment, there are specific modes of operation you have to subscribe to. System security, documentation, system management monitoring, developing standards and implementing those standards -- those are the types of best practices and procedures I am looking to bring to state government.
Government CIOs are fond of saying technology isn't the problem, the culture is challenging. How will you approach culture change?
Building a trust relationship and exercising the "right of inclusion" are the first steps. I am fortunate I was in the banking industry in the Federal Reserve System, because the culture in a banking environment is close to that of a state. There is a lot of institutional knowledge in state government.
In fact, I just came from a meeting where a department is not computerized. I am obviously going to work on that one.
Unfortunately situations occur when the core IT organization cannot rise to an occasion and deliver solutions due to workload pressures, quality issues, lack of personnel, funding, etc. The user community, while understanding, cannot wait for issues to be resolved. My goal is to help government departments streamline or re-engineer their processes, look for opportunities to implement automation and optimize utilization of IT personnel.
What is the biggest barrier to making that happen?
Change and a perceived loss of control are the biggest barriers. That is consistent in both state government and private business. Building and maintaining trust relationships is crucial, along with service level agreements that take into consideration the business drivers for each of the agencies. It is crucial to establish core operations standards and incorporate requirements critical to the operation of agencies/departments outside of my team.
Where will Vermont be in three years under your IT leadership?
My vision is that my department will deliver core services to all agencies in Vermont, such as centralized network and security management, centralized mail messaging services, utilization of push technology from a central source to push upgrades to the server and operating system base, management of all servers and desktops, and SLAs with specific expectations that this team will manage to ensure consistent, high-quality deliverables.