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Hawaii Checks Off Small Gains to Achieve Big Outcomes

In keeping with the common adage that government officials must do more with less, Hawaii CIO Douglas Murdock is breaking down long-term goals into small steps that will ultimately save both time and money.

Since signing on to the job in January, Hawaii CIO Douglas Murdock has been thinking a lot about money, and the lack thereof. “We are always resource-constrained, so we have to prioritize really well,” he said.

To that end, he’s been reviewing the architecture across his portfolio to better understand needs around IT modernization. “We have to look at requirements and decide which are the must-do and which are the nice-to-do. We look at the risk to a system in terms of how old the technology is, how critical it is to our success and what resources we have available,” he said.

So far he’s found that the best path forward often involves taking little nibbles rather than big bites. “I’d like to do everything at once, but the state doesn’t really have the staff to do that. So we take a big strategic system like the ERP and break it down to smaller transactional systems like payroll and human resources management, and we do them one at a time,” he said.

Even as he tackles big statewide issues, Murdock also is collaborating with agencies to help them advance a range of citizen-facing initiatives. “A couple of departments have started building digital government portals, and we will provide governance for all those IT systems,” he said. “We might help them look at business process re-engineering, organizational change management, procurement issues, how to properly staff their programs and then how to track through the process.”

Murdock’s key to success is the use of IV&V — independent verification and validation contractors, outside entities who come on board to ensure IT projects stay on course. “They attend all the meetings, they look over all the documentation and they give us a monthly report on each major area of the project,” he said. “They have a lot of experience on IT projects, so if they see something going over cost or a schedule not being met, they will help to flag it.” 

He expects to be leveraging that tool in the coming months to drive overhauls in areas like travel tracking and electronic purchasing. “They’re not sexy, but they could have great money-saving value to the state,” he said.

This story is part of a series profiling new state and local government CIOs.

Lauren Kinkade is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.