Touitou Wants to Bring Urgency to San Francisco IT

San Francisco named Marc Touitou its new CIO on April 25, a private-sector IT professional with more than 30 years of experience.

Beating out more than 80 other candidates, Marc Touitou was named San Francisco’s new CIO on April 25. He was selected, he said, because San Francisco wanted different results, so they took a different approach. Touitou has more than 30 years of IT experience in the private sector, most recently working as senior vice president and CIO of Netherlands-based semiconductor developer ASML.

"As a leader in innovation and open data policies, San Francisco is committed to implementing new approaches to make city government even more transparent, efficient and constituent-focused," Mayor Edwin Lee stated in a press release. "Marc Touitou, our city's new chief information officer, is an accomplished change maker, who has proven executive experience in global organizations and shares my commitment to challenge our own city government to be more accountable and engaged, and make San Francisco the world's first City 2.0."

Touitou told Government Technology that he was not on the job market or even considering work beyond the consulting he was doing when this position came to him. “I said to my wife, ‘For the first time in my life, after 30 years of hard work, I’m going to take six months, a year off, I’m just going to do nothing, just consulting, and take care of me’,” he said. “And she laughed at me. She said, ‘You will not last two months.’ She was right, of course.”

The honeymoon is over now, Touitou said, and after his first 40 days of meeting his staff and partners, he’s ready to start changing IT in San Francisco. “I moved here for a couple reasons. First of all, it was voted the best city to live in in 2012, and the World Series and the Super Bowl, and the relaxed atmosphere and the way people engage. This is a very cool city,” he said. “Yes, San Francisco was on the right track, but I think is sometimes missing is a sense of urgency, the knowledge that something can get done faster. ... I’m hoping that’s one of the things I bring to the table -- the ability to simplify and accelerate.”

One of the first things he noticed, Touitou said, was the absence of a project management office  for IT. Almost every project he looked at was behind schedule, with no clear end in sight. “For every project, you need to have a group project definition, a clear scope, clearly what’s not in scope, the business case,” he said. “There’s a beginning, there’s an end, there’s a budget allocated and you’re supposed to deliver on-time, on-budget, on-feature. And you should know who are the senior stakeholders, you should know who is the sponsor, who are the owners, so that there is a governance of the project. So when the project is stopped, you’ve got a steering committee, and the job of the steering committee is to remove obstacles. If you don’t have a steering committee, then the project encounters obstacles and no one removes the obstacles so the project doesn’t make progress. And that’s what I see. It’s true for the email project, which started years ago. It’s true for the data center consolidation project, which started years ago. It’s true for almost everything I touch in the first 40 days.”

Once that baseline is established for project management, then the city can begin to realize faster timelines, he said, and they can begin looking forward. One of the big goals he hopes to accomplish, he said, is offering free Wi-Fi for the entire city. “It’s not just a myth,” he said. “We can do that and I think there are ways to accelerate this dramatically." Touitou added that he is aggressively working towards citywide Wi-Fi, hoping to have the network set up before New York City completes theirs.

Moving from the private to public sector has presented a few challenges, Touitou said, most notably a difference in government’s “rules of engagement,” but the fundamentals are the same.

“Some CIOs come from business and they are not really technical. Some CIOs are technical and they don’t understand business very well. I’m a hybrid kind of guy. I’ve done virtually all the jobs in IT, from network to operations, application development. So what I bring is an in-depth knowledge of the importance of architecture and processes,” he said. “San Francisco should have a very smart infrastructure, very flexible. We’re in a beautiful zone, but we’re also in a risky zone where we have to be resilient to quakes and floods and things like that. … Then when we start tackling problems of innovation, what applications, what technology and how we render a particular service. It’s a combination of the right design, the right architecture, the right infrastructure for that architecture and that exists in order to be able to have the right process architecture. That’s what I bring to the table.”

Touitou's predecessor was Jon Walton, who left San Francisco in January to serve as CIO of nearby San Mateo County, Calif.

Colin wrote for Government Technology and Emergency Management from 2010 through most of 2016.