Kristin Russell wants to leave a technology legacy in Colorado — and based on her work so far, she’s well on her way. Appointed the state’s CIO and technology secretary in 2011, Russell left the private sector for what she called a “tremendous opportunity to learn about government.”

Within 90 days of taking the job, Russell wrote a framework for what she’d like to leave behind; it focused on establishing programs and initiatives to benefit future generations. “My experience in the private sector enabled me to help people in government see how things are possible through the lens of technology,” she said.

Coming from tech giants Oracle and Sun Microsystems, Russell witnessed how enterprise IT not only works, but also how it’s possible. In two years, Russell and her team have driven Colorado forward on major tech initiatives, including implementing a consolidated cloud-based email system for state employees (read more on p. 44). She also tackled Colorado’s long-troubled, state-controlled, county-administered benefits eligibility system. Implementing a governance structure was a “significant step in the right direction,” and she observed issues first-hand by watching county workers use the system.

To give Colorado an IT strategic plan, which it previously lacked, each fiscal year now begins with development of a playbook, an outline of priorities to guide initiatives for the next 12 months. It lets Colorado be transparent about its goals, while providing a benchmark to measure successes. (In fiscal 2012, 47 of 66 initiatives were completed.)

Russell will continue to leverage her industry experience to make Colorado the “Silicon Mountain of the IT community,” while following the philosophy of build once and use many times. Technology, she said, “can and should be really foundational to government being more effective, efficient and elegant.”

Photo courtesy of the Colorado Office of Information Technology

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Elaine Pittman  |  Associate Editor

Elaine Pittman is the associate editor for Government Technology, Public CIO and Emergency Management. Before coming to Government Technology, she worked for The Coloradoan daily newspaper in Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached via email and @elainerpittman on Twitter.