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Ed Toner

CIO, Nebraska

Ed Toner, CIO, Nebraska
David Kidd/Government Technology
|  Ed Toner’s profile

“Would they actually do business with us if they didn’t have to?” That’s the customer-focused mentality that Ed Toner brings to his role as chief information officer for the state of Nebraska.

The “they” he refers to are the thousands of employees throughout the state. Soon after he assumed the role in 2015, Toner began a three-phase consolidation effort that brought all network, servers and desktop support services under the purview of the Office of the CIO (OCIO). As any IT leader who’s been on a similar path will attest, it’s an enormously complex task, one he undertook with a focus on customer service.

A self-described technologist, Toner also knew the consolidation process would underscore the importance of communication. He cultivated buy-in from technical staff throughout the organization with a thoughtful, methodical approach. Toner addressed the expected cultural resistance at the agency level in part by staffing the consolidated organization with leaders who came from state agencies.

The consolidation has yielded savings in the millions, and some of the changes have reaped unexpected benefits. For example, service centers were added throughout Nebraska, making IT help more accessible and eliminating costly overnight travel to remote areas. The change also opened up access to new talent outside of the capital area.

In fact, workforce development gets a lot of attention from Toner. A partnership with the local community college supplies a steady flow of interns. But in Nebraska, they don’t call them interns. Calling them “office service workers” translates to a better salary during a six-month period where they work side by side with IT staff in various specialties. Many are eventually hired into permanent employment. “We’ve got them all throughout our enterprise and they’re doing a wonderful job,” he said.

A highly visible leader, Toner started a monthly blog when he became CIO, sharing his thoughts on IT issues and the work ahead of the agency. Intended as an internal tool to help foster connection and understanding on agency projects and priorities, the blog’s reach has grown much wider. Vendors consider it must-read material and IT leaders throughout the country see it as a valuable resource as well. But perhaps the blog’s greatest purpose was its original intent: to ensure the workforce understands and supports projects like the consolidation.

A recent posting by Toner offered metrics on the performance of the new organization. Since 2016, the time to resolve an incident request has gone down by more than 40 percent, and users recently rated OCIO’s customer support a 4.5 out of 5, with seven groups receiving a perfect 5 rating. There’s not much room to argue with stats like that.
e.Republic Executive Editor Noelle Knell is a contributing editor to Emergency Management magazine.