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Montana CIO Ron Baldwin Advances Strategic IT Vision

CIO Ron Baldwin comes to the role in Montana with decades of IT leadership experience, both inside and outside of government.

Taking the helm as CIO of Montana is Ron Baldwin, who brings 30 years of experience in both public- and private-sector IT. Appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock, Baldwin, who served as CIO for Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) since February 2009, assumed the position as state CIO in January 2013. Baldwin holds the office vacated by former state CIO Dick Clark, who retired late last year.

At the DPHHS, Baldwin played a key role in preparing the state to integrate with the federal health insurance exchange – the option Montana chose for its implementation of the Affordable Care Act, set to take effect in January 2014.

“We’re pretty well positioned with the technology and architecture we’ve put in place in recent years to successfully integrate and be interoperable with the insurance exchange,” Baldwin told Government Technology. “There’s a lot of work to do, but I think the overall planning and foresight with the systems that we’ve put in in recent years has positioned us well to be ready.”

Far-Reaching Priorities for Statewide IT

As state CIO, Baldwin has a more global set of priorities, aligned with Gov. Bullock’s vision for a more effective government. IT, Baldwin explained, will play a key role in carrying out that vision by helping make government seamless for citizens.

As an example, Baldwin is currently working with economic development staff to develop a unified business portal that will serve as a one-stop shop with all information for prospective and existing Montana businesses owners in a single location.

Baldwin is also charged with directing a $2 million investment made by the state legislature to protect the state’s data. “I’m going to be using money that was appropriated in the last [legislative] session to further protect and take every reasonable technology means that we possibly can to help the state of Montana as an enterprise protect its data and protect its very important IT assets.”

Although IT is decentralized in Montana, Baldwin is focused on getting technology departments throughout the state in sync. Toward that end, he is working on revamping the state’s strategic planning process. Baldwin stops short of calling this an effort to centralize IT – rather it’s an attempt to ensure that IT is as coordinated as possible. It’s an issue that’s definitely on the radar of the state Legislature, he said, mentioning a recently-formed legislative committee dedicated to identifying new opportunities for government efficiency.

“What I’d like to see is the agencies be able to accomplish their mission with the resources they have and the vision they have, but do it within the context of the state of Montana as an enterprise,” he said.

Baldwin recognizes the challenge inherent in knocking down traditional silo-oriented government thinking. But it’s an endeavor well worth the effort, in his view -- and one that will definitely benefit Montana citizens.

"A citizen really doesn’t want to have to penetrate those different silos horizontally to find out everything they need to do. They don’t want to have to necessarily figure out how government is structured, and how it provides its services,” he said. “So the challenge is to have government almost look like it's one organization here to serve the public in a way that’s coordinated.”

Support for Multi-State Collaboration Continues

The state of Montana was an early proponent of sharing services across state lines, as evidenced by numerous initiatives previously covered by Government Technology. Most notably, the state embarked upon a successful multi-state GIS data-sharing agreement with Oregon, Utah and Colorado in 2011.

Though many of these efforts were initiated for reasons of financial necessity, Baldwin enthusiastically supports continued collaboration across state lines that benefits both parties. Baldwin recently participated on a NASCIO panel on the topic of continuity of operations, where he discussed the cooperative disaster recovery arrangement Montana enjoys with Oregon. 

“If another state has certain capacities that we don’t want to have to build from scratch, we want to be able to take advantage of that,” he said.

Photo courtesy of the state of Montana.

Noelle Knell is the executive editor for e.Republic, responsible for setting the overall direction for e.Republic’s editorial platforms, including Government Technology, Governing, Industry Insider, Emergency Management and the Center for Digital Education. She has been with e.Republic since 2011, and has decades of writing, editing and leadership experience. A California native, Noelle has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history.