Georgia’s IT operations are an anomaly. It’s one of the few states that has outsourced IT infrastructure, networking and IT services. Technology is really a business in Georgia that requires top-flight management and leadership. And that explains why Calvin Rhodes was brought on board in January 2011 as the state’s CIO and executive director of the Georgia Technology Authority.
For decades, Rhodes worked in the private sector, primarily at the Fulton Paper Co., where he mastered the art of running IT as a business. When Rhodes took over as state CIO, the outsourcing initiatives were maturing slowly and workers were still worried about what it all meant. “There were worries about loss of control,” he said.
Five years later, that problem is in the past. Rhodes and his team have just finished a major modernization overhaul of the state’s IT: No servers older than 60 months, no PCs older than 36 months and software patches are pushed out on a weekly basis. All of this has led to a more robust, integrated IT services operation, under the direction of another outside firm, Capgemini, an integrator brought on to ensure the state follows Information Technology Infrastructure Library best practices.
Rhodes also overhauled the state’s portal technology. Georgia was an early adopter of open source for its Web platform, which runs in the cloud. To date, the state has 85 industry-compliant public websites, which has made content maintenance much easier.
All of this foundation work has reduced the number of issues the Technology Authority has to tackle, freeing up time to help agencies with projects that can better serve their constituencies. “The agencies are very plugged in with us, very engaged,” said Rhodes, who used the term “collaborative” multiple times to underscore the close relationship IT has with its end users.
It’s not all easy, but Rhodes said the work is rewarding because of the differences the state makes in helping its citizens. “We will touch on so many different ways to help people; that’s something that doesn’t happen very often in the private sector.”