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Ervan Rodgers on Collaboration, Consolidation in Ohio

Ohio Chief Information Officer Ervan Rodgers explains his approach to infrastructure consolidation, how to make a smart transition to cloud-based services and how the Innovate Ohio program will bolster citizen services.

by / April/May 2020
David Kidd/Government Technology

Since taking on the role of Ohio CIO in January 2019, Ervan Rodgers has been building bridges. In order to streamline IT offerings and maximize the return on technology investments, he’s put a heavy emphasis on interagency outreach and team-building across government.

1. What is your role with Innovate Ohio, the interagency effort to boost citizen service?

I have been the biggest cheerleader behind this — to partner and collaborate not only with Innovate Ohio, but with the rest of the agencies, boards and commissions. We’ve gathered and collected all the various opportunities that are out there. Now it’s a matter of prioritizing. And there have been some things that we’ve already worked on successfully together. For example, a number of agencies have onboarded onto the Innovate Ohio platform. The Department of Health, for example, is leveraging it for a big health initiative that we’re all really excited about. 

2. What is the status of consolidating IT infrastructure in Ohio?

There were approximately seven agencies that were in our initial effort, which included bringing their servers into the data center. We’re getting greater efficiencies in terms of disaster recovery versus if they were out on their own. Not only do we have backups onsite, but we have a secondary data center where that information is replicated.

We also have a dedicated team to focus on this. There are always some challenges in getting everybody to adhere to a more enterprise approach, but that is one of those things that we have to overcome as we work together. 

3. How do you achieve that cultural shift?

We have a multi-agency council where on a monthly basis we bring together all of our CIOs at the various agencies, boards and commissions. We use that to update folks, to give them insights as to what’s coming on our road map. We’ve made those meetings a collaborative opportunity, where we are sitting down at the table solving complex problems that have either been presented to us by the governor’s office or that we’re seeing from an enterprise perspective.

We listen to their feedback, leveraging solutions that an agency might have. We take their solution or toolkit and use that at the enterprise level. Going in with that mindset has really helped folks to be honest and open, to feel that it’s one team, one goal. And the taxpayers save money versus trying to implement something 32 different ways. 

4. Where else do you see opportunities to leverage IT across agencies?

The next thing is to gracefully move from “cloud first” to “cloud smart.” Under cloud first, we would look at a new technology to evaluate whether or not that can go through the cloud — embracing the cloud versus keeping things on-prem. Cloud smart is about putting the tools in place to make best use of that: Not every agency has to go out and get a cloud architect, for example. We can help educate the various agencies. We’re empowering them to move forward. We have three different models: It can be managed services, it can be that we manage it for them or it can be a combination of those.

It’s very quick and easy to stand up a server and pick your cloud vendor. However, if you aren’t setting that up appropriately, you could very easily not put the right security measures in place and end up making things available to the public that you intend to be private. Having some standards in place has really been a key foundational element. In fact, there is such a great demand for that that we’re now partnering with Microsoft. They have given us free access to retrain and retool our existing colleagues across not only my team but the other agencies as well. So there’s an incentive there to get everyone familiar with the technology.

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Adam Stone Contributing Writer

A seasoned journalist with 20+ years' experience, Adam Stone covers education, technology, government and the military, along with diverse other topics. His work has appeared in dozens of general and niche publications nationwide. 

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