As CIO of Kansas City, Mo., Gail Roper hatched a strategy to improve the IT staff's skills and the success rate of IT initiatives, which has raised eyebrows across the country. Kansas City's Web-enabled project management system, called the Project Knowledge System, earned a Digital Cities Best of Breed award from the Center for Digital Government.
What surprised you about city government during your tenure in Kansas City?
I was totally unprepared for the significant need for technology innovation in Kansas City. This was both a blessing and a curse. Kansas City is what I called the ultimate opportunity -- significant initiatives had to be tackled to provide a suite of technologies that would impact productivity and efficiency. The need for the CIO to start from the ground up was evident and initially overwhelming.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
From a cost savings perspective, the most significant project has been our telecommunications initiative. We designed and implemented a private phone network that has served us well during the last four years. We have a seven-year investment payoff, and we expect a 15-year lifecycle for the technology.
Our telecommunications billing processes were automated, and provided an opportunity for us to track spending and understand trends throughout the organization. Kansas City government now has one of the largest private branch exchanges in the Midwest.
What would you want your colleagues to say about you if asked? What would be the highest compliment?
From the human perspective, I would want them to say I possess a sense of humor. I am a firm believer in life and the value of enjoying what you do for a living. As we age, hopefully we focus more on the quality of life and the significance of building and establishing relationships with colleagues. I have a tendency to enjoy people and their unique personalities. Many people in my field fell in love with computers and are reluctant to build relationships. I've been known to make friends with the meanest of the mean and to respect others' opinions.
The highest compliment would be to say that I am an innovator, decision-maker and that I truly care about the development of people.