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Colorado Eyes New CRM Model for Government

State CIO Kristin Russell and CTO Sherri Hammons are pursuing a “citizen engagement platform” that draws on private-sector innovation.

Colorado officials report that existing IT systems are about 10 years old. More than 60 percent of IT systems are more than seven years old. The Colorado Office of Information Technology, led by CIO Kristin Russell, views the aging infrastructure as an opportunity to introduce a new government service delivery model.

Russell and her team are looking to bring the benefits of private-sector customer relationship management (CRM) to government. With a background that includes positions with Oracle and Sun Microsystems, Russell feels a CRM-style solution can save money by removing redundant systems and services, encourage innovation and provide better service to citizens.

Russell and CTO Sherri Hammons explained in an interview with Government Technology that Colorado is looking to leverage IT funds for maximum benefit across many state service areas.

“We really need to look holistically at modernizing our systems,” Russell explained. “The government and public sector don’t look at citizen engagement in the same way, and so there isn't a platform to provide that holistically across multiple services.”

Federal Funds Aid Modernization Efforts

Colorado joins Wyoming, Nevada and Arizona in a four-state consortium that was recently awarded $72 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to help modernize its tax and benefit systems and reduce improper payments.

“Instead of just using federal dollars to build standalone, one-time-use type of solutions, I want to use those federal dollars to really invest in research and development and innovation into the private sector, which creates jobs and then ultimately delivers solutions that benefit citizens across the U.S.,” Russell said.

State officials cite a number of concerns with how most government agencies currently operate — independent agencies make significant investments in software and hardware in order to deliver what they view as highly specialized services to citizens. The majority of agencies have limited ability to share customer data across departments, and in fact, customized technology infrastructure can prevent data sharing outright.

Russell and Hammons recently released a white paper that outlines their vision for a Citizen Engagement Platform (CEPaaS) that manages citizens much as the private-sector manages customers — with efficient, comprehensive services that unite citizen interactions with government using common tools.

A Platform for Improved Service Delivery

The paper asserts that significant duplication in citizen information exists across agencies, and many agencies in fact share many commonalities in how they engage with citizens. Russell and Hammons have set their sights on a new model for public-sector interaction with citizens that focuses on streamlined service delivery that makes more efficient use of public dollars and leverages the latest private-sector innovations.

Colorado officials expect to issue an RFP later this month in order to move forward with CEPaaS, calling upon the vendor community to bring innovations that may have future uses across the country.

“We’re trying to build an ecosystem for innovation so that we can open up this environment to multiple different types of vendors and partners, both small and large, to be able to innovate and connect into the platform,” Russell concluded.

Data Sharing Foundation in Place

Now under the leadership of Gov. John Hickenlooper, IT officials say that Colorado’s efforts to build CEPaaS connect to an earlier data governance strategy during former CIO Michael Locatis’ tenure that aimed at better organizing and analyzing information held by government agencies at all levels. Agencies can now take advantage of an “information marketplace”, which is a forum to share commonly used government documents, including memoranda of understanding and privacy policies.


Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.
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