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New York State’s Maggie Miller Plans Bold Moves

In her new role — her first in the public sector — Miller says she’s determined to carry out the governor’s mandate to transform state IT and re-imagine government programs.

Technology in New York state government is undergoing big changes. More than 3,000 agency IT employees have been transferred to the state’s central Office of Information Technology Services. Eight new “cluster CIOs” now oversee technology across related groups of agencies and report directly to the state CIO. Fifty data state centers are being consolidated into a new facility through an innovative partnership with the State University of New York.

It’s a huge transformation inside one of the nation’s most complex bureaucracies – and New York State CIO Maggie Miller is right at home.

“I’ve spent most of my career working in organizations that were undergoing major transformations of some sort,” said Miller, who was named state CIO by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December. Her 40-year career in technology includes five years as CIO for Warner Music Group during a period when sharing of digital music via the Internet shook the music industry to its core. Before that, she led an IT modernization effort for Britain’s second largest food retailer.

“The music industry had massive disruption. They had changes on the supply and demand side — every dynamic changed at once,” Miller says of her time at Warner.

In her new role — her first in the public sector — Miller says she’s determined to carry out Cuomo’s mandate to transform state IT and re-image government programs. Those goals were spelled out in a 2013 report from the state’s Spending and Government Efficiency Commission, which said consolidating and modernizing New York State government could save $1.6 billion while improving services.

“In the commercial world, I was known to be pretty demanding in terms of pace and innovation,” Miller said. “And I have a relentless intolerance for pointless bureaucracy. I think I share that with the governor.”

Creating an environment where employees are empowered to question the status quo and ensuring that crucial systems kept running during the transformation were her first tasks. “It think we’d taken our focus off the operational side a little bit,” she said, “but we’re laser focused back on that.”

Next up is consolidating and modernizing applications. Miller says upgrades will be made from a “fiercely citizen-centric” point of view, and will include deployment of strategic platforms that span multiple agencies. One goal is to provide a better user experience through single sign-on to multiple government services.

As New York state’s reorganization moves forward, Miller says she won’t shrink from bold decisions and a little uncertainty.

“You can’t effect a major transformation without taking some risk,” she said. “It needs to be balanced and minimized. But if your only motivation is to eliminate all risk, you’ll never get anywhere.”