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Washington CIO Bharat Shyam Talks About His Shift From the Private to the Public Sector

Ex-Microsoft manager discusses his transition to state CIO.

by / August 1, 2012
Bharat Shyam, CIO, Washington state. Bharat’s passions outside of technology are reading fiction and economics. He’s also working on a collection of short stories that he might try to get published. Photo courtesy of Washington Office of the Chief Information Officer. Photo courtesy of Washington Office of the Chief Information Officer.

Bharat Shyam was appointed CIO of Washington state in November 2011, after working 18 years for Microsoft. He’s in the midst of overhauling the state’s technology governance structure and how Washington invests in new technology.

Your responsibilities have taken a tremendous jump as state CIO in comparison to your role at Microsoft. Has there been a learning curve over the last seven months?

The biggest difference is how public everything is. I went from being a person who spent his entire career building products and services to someone whose primary responsibility is to buy the right products. The diversity of what someone in a large IT organization role has to think about was a big revelation for me in terms of how much is going on everywhere.

How successful have you been in making that transition and have you been contributing as effectively as you’d like?

I can always pick a set of areas where I can contribute immediately even as I am learning about areas [that] I don’t know much about. That is technology, but in terms of interacting with people, there is something new to learn every day.

You released a strategy document in February that outlines some of the changes Washington must make to upgrade and enhance its technology presence. What kind of progress has the state made on the action items within that policy?

IT financial management [systems]. We did a substantial review of everything that is available and have identified a vendor that we are in the final stages of writing a contract with.

Another area where we are making some progress is experimenting with cloud platforms. We are actively looking at Microsoft Office 365 as a solution for our email, and I will very likely have some of our agencies on it. [But] we have not signed a contract yet.

The state’s new data center has been a bit controversial before you took the CIO job. What caused the delay in getting it online and when will the building become fully operational?

We built out more data center space than necessary and this was primarily because of lack of awareness of the way virtualization increases [both] the density and the need for data center space. The short answer is, in this calendar year we’ll be utilizing the data center.

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Brian Heaton

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.

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