Utah CIO Mark VanOrden Retires

VanOrden says he has to leave the next big project to someone else.

by / September 15, 2015
Utah CIO Mark Van Orden, who is retiring effective Nov. 12, talks with Bob Woolley, the state’s ‎chief technical architect. e.Republic/David Kidd

On Sept. 15, the Utah governor's office announced its CIO and executive director of the Department of Technology Services (DTS), Mark VanOrden, will soon retire.

On Nov. 12, VanOrden will leave the state to spend time volunteering at childrens' addiction recovery organizations. With two months left, VanOrden said he's not one to relax; he hopes to do as much as possible with the time he has left, especially as his office attempts to push a big data initiative into this year's budget cycle.

"It's a gap analysis of where we're at today to where we could be and what we could be doing in using big data," VanOrden explained. "So it remains to be seen where this goes."

VanOrden said the state is modeling its big data efforts after those of Indiana's big data analytics center. The state has aspirations to solve problems like high recidivism rates, intergenerational poverty and poor air quality in the Salt Lake Valley. Big data can help the state make better decisions and get closer to solving those types of problems, VanOrden explained.

"We take data from all of the 22 cabinet-level agencies," VanOrden said. "Right now, we host all the data together in the same data center, but because of restrictions and security issues, the data isn't shared between agencies, so we believe there's great value in sharing all this data and utilizing all this data to make data-driven decisions."

If he's lucky, VanOrden will see his office's big data initiative make it into the budget this year. But he said he realized that at some point, it was time to retire and move onto something else, because there's always a new technology project around the corner in state government.

VanOrden first started with the state as an IT manager for the Department of Workforce Services in 1992. He later rejoined the department in 2006 after some time in the private sector as an IT director, and was then appointed CIO and departmental executive director in 2012. Looking back at his career, VanOrden said he thinks his biggest contribution in supporting his agency was the change in culture he helped instill through the adoption of what they call four pillars: customer service, innovation, employee success and security.

VanOrden is also recognized for leading the state's recent cybersecurity efforts. He explained that every two years, the agencies meet with Deloitte for an evaluation of the cybersecurity posture and to receive a report card that will guide their subsequent progress. The state improved its security operations center to include 24-hour monitoring and now encrypts its sensitive data, VanOrden said.

"One of the best things we've done is our security council," he said. "It's a council made up of five cabinet members in the Governor's Office of Management and Budget, and our chief information security officer. They get together on a regular basis and talk about security and what the agencies need to do. Any decision we make with security, it goes before the security council."

VanOrden also helped Utah become one of the leading states in e-government and online service delivery. In 2014, Utah was one of three states to receive an "A" grade in e-government from the Center for Digital Government, sister organization to Government Technology. According to the state, each time a citizen accesses one of the available 1,100 services online, the state saves $13 compared to a paper transaction.

State government service delivery is on the upswing generally, but there is still room for improvement. VanOrden advised his fellow state CIOs to be flexible and move as fast as technology does. The Internet of Things and big data are both changing the face of technology and government, he said, so CIOs should do their best to keep up with both of those fields.

"Michigan, North Carolina and Indiana have done some good things [in big data], but outside of those three states, there's not a lot that have done much with big data," VanOrden said. "I think that's the wave of the future."

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.