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Harris County CIO Bruce High Discusses Local Collaboration

Texas county CIO discusses new initiatives including enterprise technology.

Bruce High was named CIO of Harris County in 2009, replacing longtime CIO Steve Jennings. High brings a mix of public- and private-sector experience to his role as top technology official for the most populous county in Texas. He has extensive local government experience and also worked for a major private software company.

How has the Harris County IT organization changed since your arrival?

When I joined the Harris County Information Technology Center a little over four years ago, Steve Jennings let me go out and talk to people throughout the county so I could understand our role as a service provider. The IT Center put together a master plan that says we’re here to share information, enable transactions and provide interactive functions. From there, we talked about what solutions we had in place and the silos that supported those solutions. Then we took it to the next level and worked with county business lines to identify the core functions of county government and how to enable them.

What initiatives are under way?

We’re focused on the repeatability of the application code that we buy or build so that similar functions can be reused in different solutions. We develop the functionality, and we put a layer on top that’s tailored to a department’s individual needs. We have a reservation system that’s being used by four different departments. We’re also working on a document management solution that will be used enterprisewide. Another focus is enabling search — not just Web search — but the ability to find information you need anywhere within the county government.

How do you build productive relationships with other county departments?

The role of our business analysts has evolved over the past three years. They used to function more as order-takers. Now their job is to interact with different county departments and understand their business processes. We work closely with departments to learn their processes from inception to completion. From that point, we help them identify gaps and where technology can improve efficiency. I’d say 80 percent of Harris County is working with us now. We have business analysts who sit in departmental staff meetings. That’s the partnership we’re looking for.

How is Harris County collaborating with Houston and other local jurisdictions?  

The largest thing is our regional radio system. We now have more than 170 interlocal agreements. We have 45,000 radios on the system. We also are working closely with Texas, Greater Harris County 911 and Houston to put together a plan for regional broadband technology for public safety.


Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.