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Washington State Begins to Fill Key Technology Vacancies

Sue Langen, Washington state's new acting director for its Office of the CIO, was most recently CIO for the Department of Social and Health Services.

Nearly two months after the departure of its technology leader, Washington state is beginning to fill the vacancies on its tech bench with the appointment of a new acting director for the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).

Longtime state technology official Sue Langen is Washington’s new OCIO acting director, the state announced on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Her first day in her new role was Thursday, Nov. 16.

The OCIO provides oversight to WaTech, the state’s technology agency, and its projects, as well as tech initiatives at other agencies.

The state of Washington is a federated IT environment but the OCIO advises state agencies on their tech initiatives. It also advises the Legislature, and is home to the state’s Technology Business Management and GIS programs.

Former OCIO Director Rob St. John, who is now the state’s acting CIO, said in a statement he is “excited for the opportunity” to work with Langen in her new role.

“I am confident the OCIO will continue to excel and serve its customers and the state under her watch,” St. John said.

Langen, a 25-year state employee who rose to CIO of the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) before joining the OCIO in February 2015 as senior policy and enterprise system advisor, said part of her mission will center on generating financial efficiencies in technology.

“Part of the big task from the state Legislature is around how we spend our money as a state entity and ways that the OCIO ensures that the state is spending with maximum benefit. And so part of what we hope to do in the next year or so is improve the enterprise architecture that we have in the state, that will perhaps give guidance to state agencies,” said Langen.

Her office will also work with the team spearheading implementation of a new Enterprise Resource Planning system statewide; and continue to improve the state’s Technology Business Management system, which scrutinizes the cost of business related to technology.

In an article the state produced internally documenting her appointment, Langen said a key role for the OCIO is “to earn the trust of the authorizing environment and support agencies with their success.”

The acting director also said she intends to improve communications, evaluate the OCIO’s tech needs and work to improve the state’s approach to technology portfolio management.

Evaluating and addressing the OCIO’s technology needs, she noted, “could be things that eventually could end up benefiting agencies,” but currently, “it’s us being able to answer questions and being able to collect data and analyze that data in our function.”

As for IT portfolio management, while the general concept hasn’t changed, the state’s model is “older,” Langen said, and so it’s time to re-examine things like priorities, the demarcation between state agencies and the enterprise, and types of data collected.

“It’s kind of a once-in-a-generation question. To rethink anything about how we conduct business in the OCIO or the agencies. When you used to do these 10-year waterfall projects, that’s not where we are any more. So, do you use the same processes, do you use the same things?” Langen said.

An example is the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), the statute that enables the OCIO. It has changed, according to Langen, but the OCIO’s policy is still based on older material, “and so there have been programs and expectations that may not necessarily be reflected,” she said.

Washington state will begin a nationwide search by year’s end to identify a permanent replacement for CIO Michael Cockrill, who left on Oct. 20 to join a nonprofit research group.

Theo Douglas is assistant managing editor for, and before that was a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.