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Impending Election or Not, Kansas’ New IT Chief Is Up to the Challenge

Lee Allen was named as the new chief information technology officer in late July.

Regardless of what shape the governor’s office in Kansas takes in a few months, the state’s new chief information technology officer hopes to continue the job of modernizing IT services across the state.

“For me … I feel I am too personally invested in the successes and the outcomes that we need to have here to have turned down the position because I was afraid of what might happen with an election,” said Lee Allen, who assumed the CITO job July 23, 2018.

The position opened up in February when then CITO Phil Wittmer stepped down following the departure of Gov. Sam Brownback, who was named the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom within the U.S. State Department.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer was elevated to the governor’s office, and has since lost his bid for re-election, losing the Republican primary to Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach. Kobach’s narrow victory places him in a three-way contest in the general election against Democratic State Sen. Laura Kelly and Greg Orman, an Independent.

“It does change the outlook of things,” Allen remarked. “We will see what happens in the general election here in November. My only hope is that I get an opportunity to show what we’re doing and what we’re working toward to whatever new administration is coming in.”

Allen hopes to continue a project to outsource four major data centers in Topeka, as well as migrate IT efforts from the state’s various agencies into a “consolidated service desk.”

“I’m actively getting as many agencies on as quickly as I can,” said Allen. “It’ll be the first opportunity that we’ve had to truly capture and measure all the work that IT is doing with the state of Kansas."

“That provides us with a very powerful tool for metrics and reporting,” he added.

Prior to assuming the CITO position, Allen was the CIO for the Kansas Department of Children and Families, leading the team dedicated to application development, infrastructure security and computer operations or, as Allen puts it, "all the normal things that the CIO role would entail."

During this time Allen began working with CIOs from other state agencies to help set the strategic direction for IT and manage various projects and initiatives.

“I’ve been very much involved in the enterprisewide planning for several years now,” he said.

In 2010, Allen joined state government to work for what was then known as the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. (SRS is now the Kansas Department for Children and Families.) Allen served as an assistant director in the department focusing on infrastructure management.

His extensive background in the state government was what Allen credited as one of the key strengths he brings to the CITO position. There’s often a reflex to bring in someone from outside of government, to perhaps offer new sets of ideas, said Allen.

“But there’s also value to what your people internally have, the knowledge they have and the skill sets they possess and the benefit they can bring, because of those experiences,” said Allen. 

“I feel that I have a unique insight into what is needed and what it’s going to take to get this as-a-service model, and consolidation of IT core services up and running,” he continued.

“And to have turned it down because I was afraid of an election, I think would not have been in my best interest or in the best interest of the staff that are working around the state and all the agencies trying to deliver IT,” he added.

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.
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