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New Hampshire's New IT Exec Says Tech Starts with People

Denis Goulet, the state's new tech commissioner, comes to the Granite State from the private sector and has an IT philosophy that focuses on people and process.

On April 3, long-time private-sector IT pro Denis Goulet took over as commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Information Technology (DoIT). Goulet joined the state after most recently serving as director of development at Allscripts, a health-care practice management and electronic health records technology company. Altogether, Goulet’s three decades of private-sector tech expertise add up to the sort of guidance the state’s IT efforts need to drive the economy forward in 2015, Gov. Maggie Hassan said in her announcement.

In his first month, Goulet’s agenda read like most incoming public-sector CIOs. He got acquainted with the organization and its stakeholders, while getting a foothold on the budget and IT strategic plan. Goulet is also looking at cybersecurity and application modernization, but he says the thing that makes him different is his focus on people.

“It’s a people and process approach,” Goulet said. “People and process drives technology, versus the other side of things. We’re applying technology to service our citizens and for no other reason than that, so aligning the people and process side of things initially and throughout any project is going to improve our outcomes. Trying to drive that throughout the state is really high on my agenda.”

Getting a handle on cybersecurity is a big focus, Goulet said, because the world of online threats facing both citizens and governments is always evolving. While the state intends to improve its existing processes, Goulet explained, they also need to adapt to new challenges and create new cybercapabilities for the state.

With the new technologies that are developed each month, citizens have a growing number of avenues to do business with the state, Goulet pointed out. An economic development program called Live Free and Start is one example of the state’s efforts to use new media to connect with its populace and incubate new ideas. In every case, the state’s capabilities boil down to what it can do with its people, both in and out of government.

Mechanically, focusing on people means centering any given technology project around the people and processes it pertains to, Goulet explained. To ensure the technology delivers what it’s supposed to, it can’t exist in some abstract way — technology is made by people and for people, so that needs to be kept in mind all throughout the development process.

New Hampshire is especially well equipped for human-centered design, he added, because Lean software development, made popular by the spread of Agile development, is common in the state’s agencies.

“It’s exciting to see the level of introspection that goes on in the Lean process when you’re looking at your processes. You’re saying, ‘Are we doing this the best way we can?’ and incrementally improving all the time,” he said. “That’s exciting for me to see that happen.”

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