Lydia Murray Discusses the Changing Role of the CIO

As CIO of Cook County, Ill., Murray also collaborates extensively with Chicago and is working to bring high-speed fiber to the county's court and jail facilities.

Lydia Murray became CIO of Cook County in July 2012. Murray previously worked at the Civic Consulting Alliance, a Chicago nonprofit that organizes pro bono teams of business experts and government leaders to tackle quality-of-life issues. At the alliance, Murray served as project manager of city-county collaboration efforts that saved $34 million the first year. Government Technology asked Murray about collaborative projects between Cook County and the city of Chicago, as well as the changing role of the CIO.


What projects have you worked on since joining Cook County?

It’s everything from implementing a new ERP system at the county to coordinating with our homeland security office to have a robust disaster recovery plan. Another huge initiative is implementing broadband throughout the county. We’re bringing in high-speed fiber by working with Chicago and the Chicago Transit Authority, joining our fiber together to bring high-speed Internet to the hospital systems. Later in 2013, we’re going to bring high-speed fiber to our court and jail facilities.

Have your experience and connections as deputy chief of staff to former Mayor Richard Daley been useful now that you’re county CIO?

Yeah. Historically the city and Cook County haven’t collaborated on much of anything, [although we] share a building. That is something that has certainly changed since [Cook County Board President] Toni Preckwinkle has come into office and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken over. I have a weekly meeting with the CIO of the city. We’ve committed to one another that we’re not making technology investments without working together [or checking to see if it’s] an opportunity we should do together. My predecessor started a number of initiatives with the city and we’re trying to accelerate those.

Can you share some of the collaborative projects that Cook County is working on with Chicago?

The city had moved its mainframe to a private-sector vendor and the county was still managing its own mainframe system and so the county used the city’s contract with its mainframe provider to share those services. Right now, we’re focused on doing a joint procurement for helpdesk and desktop and network support services. We think we can get economies of scale by bidding out services jointly rather than having separate vendors or services for that. We are issuing a joint project for GPS tracking. The city has robust GPS tracking but it was a home-built system and they are bidding out their GPS. The county has never had GPS tracking and so we’re bidding it with them, again for economies of scale. We’re making our dollars go further and saving some money by working together.

How do you see the CIO role changing in 2013?

CIOs have moved more to getting vendors to provide things that are commodities where before they had to provide those services directly. That’s going to accelerate. You need to figure out what you’re good at and what is needed that is not a commodity and focus on that and then either buy the services or figure out where you can be the provider to other governments or other entities. 

Photo courtesy of the Cook County Office of the CIO