Interview with Retiring New York State CIO Jim Dillon

"I'm very excited about the fact that I was able to make a difference in the whole consensus-building, collaboration and communication process among the various players in New York State"

by / October 14, 2005
In a recent letter to his colleagues, New York State CIO Jim Dillon announced he would be retiring Dec. 9 Here is an interview conducted today by Government Technology.

GT: What led you to decide to retire?

Dillon: I had certain goals when I arrived here. We've worked hard and collaboratively to achieve them, and I think we're on the right path here. After 27 years in state service, and the fact that we're on the right path, that I'm very satisfied with, it felt like a fortuitous time to take my leave.

GT: What accomplishments are you most proud of during your tenure as CIO?

Dillon: The advances in IT governance are really what I am most proud of. The fact that we were moving in so many different directions at once four years ago. We were not cohesive, we had no enterprise architecture principles -- either at the agency level or at the enterprise level -- and we had no coherent structure for moving toward enterprise architecture, standards, strategic planning. We had virtually no relationship with local governments -- with the counties particularly -- on the issues attendant to IT development. We have all of those now. We have a very strong working relationship with the locals, particularly with New York City, and the counties. We never surprise one another anymore. That's very important. We are working on issues like identity access management, we're making great strides in portal technology, and we just rolled out a new state Web site several weeks ago that we're very proud of.

I'm very excited about the fact that I was able to make a difference in the whole consensus-building, collaboration and communication process among the various players in New York State.

GT: What challenges do you see ahead for the state, and what suggestions would you make to your successor?

Dillon: The main challenge is that if you stop moving forward, you'll move backwards. We talk about the pendulum effect of centralization and decentralization, where there always seems to be someone centralizing as someone else is decentralizing. The lessons we've learned from the private sector and working with vendors is very important, and we must keep moving forward and centralize where it makes sense, and collaborate where it makes sense.

We are centralizing -- we've centralized our data centers, we're moving toward more centralization in server consolidation, [and] networks. In many areas, application development will remain decentralized, but within a more set framework, so that enterprise architecture principles are followed within the individual applications, particularly the large enterprise-wide applications that are left over from Y2K remediation. Welfare management, unemployment insurance or the tax code -- those are very large projects in a state like this, and they are being done in a cohesive way so that we will have some standards applied with regard to hardware, [and] to case management software. It's a different world than it was a few years ago.

GT: As engaged as you've been, and now being on the verge of retirement, do you have a more philosophical picture of IT and society that you would care to discuss?

Dillon: Yes, I would. IT is more integral than most policy-makers think, with regard to the efficient delivery of services to the citizen. And I'm not just talking about a list of online applications -- we can all say: "we had 10 online applications and now we have 300." What I mean is we have a changing demographic out there, we have a younger generation that's more and more in tune with integrating technology into their daily lives, and we in government have got to keep up with that. One reason is that we need to provide services more efficiently in order to maximize the use of our tax dollars, but also to provide better service to the ultimate customer, the constituent, the citizen of New York State.

GT: What's next for you?

Dillon: I love golf, but I'm not ready to do it full time, and I'm not ready to try out for the Seniors Tour. I'm going to be out there looking for something further in life. I'd like to take the things I've learned in my own state, and as an active member of NASCIO, and my knowledge of public procurement and IT governance, and hopefully make some good use of it. I'm not talking about just making money from it, but of making a difference.

My wife is a retired social services commissioner for Orange County, N.Y. She retired about six months ago, and we've both been committed public servants for a long time. I think we have about 66 years of service between the two of us. I want to remain active and hopefully use what I've learned for some good.

GT: Anything else you'd like to say to your friends and CIOs around the country?

Dillon: Keep the faith and keep working hard. They are a very talented group of people. I've learned a great deal from them.
Wayne Hanson

Wayne E. Hanson served as a writer and editor with e.Republic from 1989 to 2013, having worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and Digital Communities. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education.

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