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Worcester, Mass., IT Department Working to Keep City Running

The department's 31 IT staff members have been busy helping hundreds of employees work from home. So far, the IT department has helped 600 employees access work from home, and requests continue to come in.

by Brian Lee, Telegram & Gazette / March 25, 2020
Frank Rodriguez of Worcester's Technical Services Department provides technical support at the city's Emergency Operations Center on Coppage Drive during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Submitted Photo] TNS

(TNS) — During the coronavirus pandemic, the city's Technical Services Department continues to be called upon for everything from setting up virtual council meetings, to connecting employee's office phones to their cellphones, said Eileen M. Cazaropoul, Worcester's chief information officer.

In fact, Cazaropoul said in an interview Tuesday, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented the most expansive set of challenges the information technology folks have experienced in recent memory.

"We've joked that for CIOs, cybersecurity and viruses have been what we've scrambled to fix," she said. "Now it's an actual virus — a public health issue. It's learning as we go to make sure we cover every business function. We'll probably find, as we speak, that we're still working on solutions for different things, trying to find more efficient ways, remotely, to help all departments ensure they have what they need in these unpredictable times from one day to the next."

The department's 31 IT staff members have been busy helping hundreds of employees work from home, and they set up a fully functioning emergency operations center, which has IT department staffers rotating for coverage seven days a week, Cazaropoul said.

So far, the IT department has helped 600 employees access work from home, and requests continue to come in, she said.

"The main thing over the past week was to ensure we have the right tools in place to get everyone set up to work from home," Cazaropoul said. "So we purchased a new secure access tool for employees to access their desktops remotely."

The foremost immediate need amid the pandemic was setting up the emergency operations center that City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. called for.

As part of the process, the IT department also set up a backup emergency operations center, as well as a backup 911 call-taker site, in the event that both sites would be needed during the pandemic, Cazaropoul said.

IT also continues to help process all of the city's financial operations. Its work with all departments to produce payroll is probably the IT department's most critical task within that realm, she said.

"We also manage and support the city website, so our web team has to be available at all times," Cazaropoul said, noting that Augustus setup an often-used web page specific to virus-related information, providing guidance on everything from how to conduct business with the city to precautions for stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

Cazaropoul said IT workers and technical support staff would begin to rotate shifts for onsite coverage at the emergency operations center while transitioning to working remotely themselves, to promote social distancing.

Various financial duties are ongoing, such as purchase orders, or printing payroll checks for employees that don't have direct deposit, and having the treasurer's office process and mail the checks.

"Everyone is doing whatever it takes to get things done," Cazaropoul said. "I'm very proud of them."

She added that the pandemic has been "a good exercise to know we have a continuity of operations plan in place and it's being activated as we speak. It'll be a learning experience on what we can improve on. Everyone has done a great job. All the departments, the Emergency Operations Center, everyone is coming together working collaboratively. It shows what a great city Worcester is."

©2020 Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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