After 15 years working for the state government of Indiana, Dewand Neely is leaving for a role with a nonprofit. He leaves behind a legacy of technological progress, along with some big fans.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with statements from Dewand Neely.
After 15 years working for the state government of Indiana, CIO Dewand Neely is stepping down.
Neely, who has been CIO since October 2015, will leave on Nov. 22, according to an email he sent out to employees of the Indiana Office of Technology (IOT) that Government Technology reviewed. He is joining the nonprofit Eleven Fifty Academy based in Indianapolis, which teaches and prepares students for careers working with programming languages, as its chief operating officer.
He leaves behind a legacy of progress and good will with officials still working in state government.
“Often a thankless job, Dewand has tackled the CIO position with a sense of humility, vulnerability, passion, and with a positive outlook from day one,” Indiana CISO Bryan Sacks wrote in an email to Government Technology. “His legacy will live on for years to come, as he is and was a transformative leader that drives everyone to be better.”
Neely first started working for the state in 2004 as a senior systems administrator and steadily climbed the ladder for the next decade and a half. He was there in the early days of the agency after former Gov. Mitch Daniels created it in 2005, and was there to help consolidate IT from other agencies into the central office.
“One of (Gov. Daniels’) platforms to help Indiana restore its rainy-day fund and get back into the black on the budget was to consolidate IT … So I raised my hand and said I really wanted to help with that,” Neely said.
Paul Baltzell, who preceded Neely as CIO, came into government with Neely from the same consultancy around the same time. Neely was a deputy CIO during Baltzell’s term, during which he garnered praise for opening up state data, pushing toward the cloud and using analytics to tackle big problems.
Neely was instrumental during that time, Baltzell said.
“Dewand was always kind of my go-to guy,” he said. “He could solve any problem I gave to him … there were a lot of other team members who were there who had great capabilities, but if I gave it to Dewand, I knew it would disappear.”
When Neely ascended to the CIO position, he turned to big data analytics as a means of helping the state tackle the opioid crisis, and continued pressing forward on improving the state’s core technology infrastructure. Under his leadership, the state set up single sign-on capabilities for agencies so that they could begin to bring together disparate data about the same citizens, and the government succeeded in virtualizing more than 73 percent of its servers.
Neely said he views his three biggest accomplishments during his time as CIO as improving relationships with other agencies, changing the state’s perspective on cybersecurity and moving toward a better workplace culture within IOT.
“We’ve done the infrastructure consolidation stuff fairly well — there’s always room for improvement — but we’re able to focus our attention now on better relationships with the agencies … learning what they’re really after, what really drives them and what moves their needle to help formulate and help guide where we go next,” he said.
What really stood out to Baltzell, who now leads IT for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, was Neely’s progress toward the cloud. He has taken advantage of the ubiquity of software-as-a-service products to help get agencies on board with the idea of working in the cloud, and pushed to stop using the state’s data centers for things that are better stored in the cloud.
“He’s taken some steps forward to open up cloud opportunities, whether they be Microsoft, Google, Amazon — and give some selection to the customers,” Baltzell said.
Sacks said he never took his eye off the need for security through the changes.
“Security was a constant priority for Dewand, where his executive support didn’t stop at just fiscal and operational responsibilities,” he wrote. “He was an evangelist for security and continued to push the envelope across the state, giving project and program changes the backing needed to be successful.”
Work aside, Neely will also leave behind a reputation as a personable, supportive leader. One of his strengths, Baltzell said, has been showing others in state government that he cares about their problems and assuring them that IOT was there to help. His departure, according to the former CIO, is the state government’s loss.
“If you couldn’t get along with Dewand, the problem was with you,” he said.
In the email announcing his departure, Neely encouraged IOT workers to continue moving forward with the state and said his experience in the agency had changed his outlook on life.
"I came here 15 years ago, only expecting to build a resume and move on after 5 years max," he wrote. "Once here however, I caught the public service bug, and truly enjoyed the mission and purpose of our work. Even on the toughest of days, I could simply reflect on the bigger picture and think about all the wonderful things the state agencies are doing to provide services and a better quality of life to the Indiana citizens. This reflection would instantly give me satisfaction, fulfillment and new energy to continue pressing forward. This experience has truly shaped my outlook and perspective."
Graig Lubsen, director of communications for IOT, said the department does not yet have an official plan for who will succed him as CIO.
Whoever takes on the role, Neely said he hopes that they continue carrying the torch for cybersecurity and that they prize workplace culture.
“I’m hoping that the foundational things are in place, that as long as they stay diligent toward the plans and metrics we put in place that that culture will take hold and make that a really fun, exciting place to work,” he said.