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NYC Names Rahul N. Merchant to CIO and Innovation Role

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces Merchant will focus on ensuring vendors and the city deliver large technology projects on time and on budget.

New York City has picked Rahul N. Merchant to help put its portfolio of technology projects back on track.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday, April 24, that Merchant will lead the city government’s IT as the citywide chief information and innovation officer and as commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. The newly expanded position will report directly to Bloomberg, the mayor’s office announced.

For the first time, one person is the end-all, be-all of New York City’s wide array of technology.

Merchant has more than 25 years of experience as an IT executive and specializes in financial services, having worked most recently managing IT investments for a private equity firm. Merchant also was CTO of Merrill Lynch and helped that company rebuild its technology infrastructure after 9/11. In addition, he worked as chief information and operations officer for Fannie Mae for three years, where he streamlined the company’s infrastructure and operations.

“Rahul is a seasoned executive who has proven himself time and again as a leader and an innovator in the industry,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “He is going to do an outstanding job as New York City’s first chief information and innovation officer, and we are excited to add him to our talented team.”

Merchant’s resume appears to be a solid fit for New York City’s current challenges, involving delayed projects and alleged cost overruns. The mayor’s office has been fighting criticism of the city’s 911 system modernization, which reportedly is the subject of an unflattering consultant study that hasn’t yet been released publicly. Merchant is replacing former New York City CIO Carole Post, who is leaving to take a job with the New York Law School. According to The New York Times, Post resigned two weeks ago “after clashing repeatedly” with a deputy mayor who questioned some aspects of the city’s data center, secure municipal wireless network and other large initiatives.

Bloomberg announced Tuesday that Merchant will create a new “center of excellence” to standardize business processes for the implementation of large technology projects, institute a system of vendor evaluation to hold contractors accountable for meeting project milestones, and update New York City’s technology contracts to focus on the delivery of established milestones to meet agency business needs.

Merchant told Crain’s New York Business that during the next few weeks the city will choose a couple of projects that will be put through the new center of excellence framework. Then other projects will follow, he said.

Merchant earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Bombay University, a master’s in computer science from Memphis State University and an MBA from Temple University.