Peter Ambs brought an MBA and a private-sector background to Albuquerque when he became its CIO seven years ago.
And they have served both him and the city well. In his time as CIO, Ambs has led the digitization of business processes and internal workflows, the creation of apps for city departments, mobile 311 functionality for citizen requests, and a range of smart city projects that have positioned Albuquerque as a nationwide leader in everything from collecting data about soil moisture in parks to preparing the city for 5G connectivity to laying the groundwork for autonomous vehicles.
Ambs focuses on ensuring the tech the city deploys is worthwhile, either monetarily or in the value provided by making services more relevant and effective for constituents.
“The work has always been about creating value,” Ambs said, “not so much just implementing technology.”
On his watch, though, Albuquerque has implemented quite a bit of tech. When Ambs arrived in 2011, digital infrastructure was lacking. He and his team consolidated duplicative systems to create a shared system environment, a process that resulted in fewer data centers, which saved money.
In government, the budget is always a limiting factor, but Albuquerque circumvented many funding challenges through remedying inefficiencies and redirecting funds to innovation. This is, perhaps, where Ambs’ background in business is most evident, although he downplays that.
“Having that background has certainly helped me,” Ambs said. “Also, I can’t do this on my own. It requires a strong team and you’ve got to be a connoisseur of talent. You’ve got to build a team. None of this work gets done without people, without project managers.”
Zack Quaintance is a staff writer for Government Technology. Prior to that, he spent five years working in daily newspapers, and another five years working in the tech sector. He lives in Northern California.