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N.D. Loses Reinvention Officer, Adds Customer Success Role

Staff changes at the North Dakota Information Technology Department include a new role focused on citizen satisfaction with the state’s digital services, and the departure of its CDO-like chief reinvention officer.

by / July 6, 2020
North Dakota State Capitol, credit North Dakota Government

The North Dakota Information Technology Department (ITD) saw two changes to its C-suite staff last month, with the announcement of the agency’s first chief customer success officer (CCSO) on June 17 and the impending departure of its chief reinvention officer (CRO).

A news release on the agency’s website announced Jeff Hensel as CCSO, a role intended to help ITD improve the state’s delivery of digital services to citizens. He’ll be responsible for integrating technology into business processes, developing a “voice of customer” program and elevating the role of business owners in helping the state achieve business-related goals. Hensel is the director of services modernization for Microsoft, a job from which he’s taking an 18-month leave of absence to assume the CCSO role, according to the news release.

“Digital transformation is impacting the world at a rapid pace — which has been accelerated by the recent pandemic,” Hensel said in a statement. “Our state's ability to provide services to the citizens of North Dakota needs to accelerate accordingly. Those who live in, visit and do business in North Dakota should expect innovation and simplification. We are at a true inflection point in which to respond to those expectations through reinventing how they interact and partner with our state government.”

The state's governor, Doug Burgum, used to work at Microsoft as well.

While Hensel was walking in the door — metaphorically, as most of ITD’s staff are still working remotely — another of the agency’s key staffers was walking out. Kevin Parker will step down as CRO at the end of August, 11 months after being appointed to the role.

Parker has worked in various state or local IT departments in at least six states, spending between six months and five years in each. Besides his time as North Dakota’s CRO, his LinkedIn page shows he was an acting CIO for Illinois’ Department of Veteran Affairs, a strategic adviser and director of government innovation in Rhode Island, various roles at the Department of Innovation and Technology and city council of Boston, a digital strategy consultant for Mobile, Ala., and a data analyst for Las Vegas, among other things.

Parker’s predecessor was North Dakota’s first CRO Julie Cabinaw, who held the role from August 2018 to July 2019.

ITD spokeswoman Kelly Ivahnenko said the CRO is similar to what other states have called the chief data officer, and the position will be refilled. She said for the last several months, the CRO and the rest of ITD has been busy making sure telework is up and running: equipment, how-to guides, multi-factor authentications and VPNs and training people on collaboration tools they needed to become more comfortable in their new environment.  

“North Dakota has a strong focus on reinventing government to serve citizens, and that obviously takes on a number of different opportunities, particularly during a pandemic, when we’re focused on protecting lives and livelihoods,” she said. “Digital services, continuity of government, providing seamless services to North Dakotans wherever they are on any device is one of the overarching drivers for that position.”

Ivahnenko said ITD has no plans to cut staff in the face of COVID-19 for now, and that its share of the state’s CARES Act allotment from the federal government is more than $67.6 million, to be spent by Dec. 31. She said this includes $17 million to bolster cybersecurity, $23.9 million for telework and $26.8 million for digital government services.

Editor's note: The timeline of Kevin Parker's departure has been corrected.

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Andrew Westrope Staff Writer

Andrew Westrope is a staff writer for Government Technology. Before that, he was a reporter and editor at community newspapers for seven years. He has a Bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.

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