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Deputy CIO Takes Over in Illinois, Ricker Moves to CGI

Jennifer Ricker stepped down as secretary of the Department of Innovation and Technology on Monday. As her deputy, Brandon Ragle, takes over the role, Ricker reflects on her time in the position.

Illinois Chief Information Officer Jennifer Ricker
Government Technology/David Kidd
Jennifer Ricker, a longtime staple in Illinois government, announced her next steps after she stepped down from heading the state’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) on Monday. She will be joining the IT and business consulting firm CGI.

“What’s exciting about it for me is that it’s brand new,” Ricker told Government Technology in an interview Monday. She added that she will be working on CGI’s new customer success program.

Ricker’s role at DoIT will be filled immediately by Brandon Ragle, who became DoIT's deputy CIO and assistant secretary in July. Prior to that, he was chief of enterprise applications at the department, a role he came into after spending 14 years working in IT at the Illinois Department of Insurance, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Ragle is currently serving in an acting capacity, with a permanent replacement still not finalized. The long-term replacement will need to be appointed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and confirmed by the state Senate.

When asked about the parts of her job at DoIT she was most proud of, Ricker pointed to efforts in increasing accessibility and supplier diversity within the department.

In 2022, Ricker hired the state’s first chief information accessibility officer, who is responsible for ensuring that the state’s information systems are accessible to people with disabilities. This position works with disability advocates, employees and residents with disabilities as well as private-sector partners.

“When everything shifted to remote, there was almost no way to access government services other than online,” Ricker said. “Seeing all those challenges as they presented themselves really turned my attention to building an IT accessibility office.”

Ricker also launched an office focused on supplier diversity, which is meant to help meet statewide goals to increase business between the state and businesses owned by women, minorities and people with disabilities.

“It was really about looking holistically to create opportunities,” said Ricker.

Ricker also worked on modernization efforts such as finalizing the state’s transition to a new enterprise resource planning finance platform and beginning the process of upgrading the state’s human resources systems.

A few months ago, Ricker also began to move some state identity management systems to a new centralized login. This program, called ILogin, will allow employees and state constituents to use a single sign-on for multiple state services.

In late 2021, it was rolled out for the state’s Department of Employment Security amid a nationwide surge in pandemic-era unemployment fraud. It has since been rolled out to other state programs and Ricker said the department will continue to work on it.

“It’s not very often that you get security enhancements combined together with, in the long term, a better user experience,” Ricker said.

As a longtime leader in state government who is headed to the private sector after more than two decades, Ricker had some advice for others entering the gov tech space: Get good information about your customers.

“Talk to your people,” she said. “Talk to your customers, talk to the other agencies you service, find out what their pain points are, talk to their customers and find out what their pain points are, talk to your own people internally.”

From there, Ricker said it’s critical to use that information to find actionable steps you can take.

“Every state has their own uniqueness about what are the roadblocks, what are the tripping points that are preventing you from actually getting the outcomes you want,” she said. “From there, you have to bucket things into ‘what are the things I have 0 percent chance of changing’ and ‘what are the things that maybe I can make some progress [on].’”
Andrew Adams is a data reporter for Government Technology. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield.