Enhancing Life in the City: Transition from IT-Focused Decision-Making to Data-Driven Decision-Making

Scott Cardenas, CIO, City and County of Denver
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Scott Cardenas, CIO, City and County of Denver

1. How would you describe the role of a CIO today?

The role of a CIO is multifaceted. In 2017, CIOs must continually be engaged with the business to create a partnership in order to deliver services from anywhere, at any time, and implement new, innovative solutions. For me, being a CIO means starting everyday hitting the ground running. This includes addressing any current technology issues, analyzing business needs, and ensuring that the correct roadmap is in place. A CIO must continually be engaged within the organization and with their business partners. This helps to create a dialogue around the needs of the business, identify persistent issues, and explore new IT platforms. It is out of this fostered dialogue that a CIO can effectively collaborate and form partnerships across the organization to ensure that the right technologies are implemented.

  The PEAK Performance team focuses on enhancing the customer experience through continuous improvement of city processes and services  

2. How can the CIOs make their business counterparts think differently about the importance of IT?

If you want your business counterparts to think differently about IT, the first step towards this is establishing a positive relationship between your IT team and your customers. The City and County of Denver’s Innovation Fund (iFund) is one example of how we are shifting from an IT-driven decision-making mindset to one that comes from a citywide perspective. Established in 2012, the iFund was designed to fund improvement projects that would measurably enhance operations and service delivery, distributing $10 million each year to approved city projects. The iFund is administrated by Technology Services, but includes representation from numerous city agencies and departments including the Mayor’s Office, the Budget and Management Office, the Department of Finance, Human Resources, Community Planning and Development, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, Public Safety, and the City Attorney’s Office. It has been widely successful—examples of iFund projects include the implementation of Workday, a replacement of our 17-year-old legacy ERP system with a cloud-based solution, and the installation of the Integrated Criminal Justice system, which secures an interface between County Courts, the City Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office. This success comes from the collaborative efforts of all parties involved and ensures that projects chosen are done so from a citywide perspective, rather than a solely IT-focused one. At the end of the day, the overall strategic goal is to understand the voice of the customer and to guarantee that we are providing unparalleled customer service for all those who work, live or play in Denver.

3. As the technology sphere evolves with each passing day, what are some of the latest trends that are gripping your mind?

As technology across all facets of business continues to evolve, we too are continually working towards becoming more lean and agile in our organizational model so we can better respond to city needs. One of our top strategic priorities is to provide access to our applications and systems anytime, anywhere, on any platform. This means increased investment in cloud technologies that allow our employees to spend more time focusing on features and functionality instead of maintenance and patching.

One of the recent trends that I’ve seen from a technological standpoint is the move towards data-driven decision-making as opposed to ad hoc decision-making. In alignment with this trend, and in an effort to achieve more measurable, metrics-driven results, the City and County of Denver established the PEAK Performance initiative. The PEAK Performance team focuses on enhancing the customer experience through continuous improvement of city processes and services. With this vision of changing the way governments operate through innovative change, city agencies require ubiquitous access to data so they can employ these data-driven principles and enhance the Denver city experience for their customers.

Lastly, I’m excited about the implementation of Smart Cities concepts including smart sensors, big data, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications to improve customer experience through enhanced technology. Ultimately, the City and County of Denver hopes that Smart Cities applications will lead to an improved quality of life for our citizens through leveraging innovative technological advances to connect them to their city services, their community, and their best future.

4. How can the evolving technologies help Enterprise Networking overcome the challenges?

Giving users secure, authentic access to the city’s systems and applications that is extremely critical. Enterprise Networking is the foundation for connecting people to services and providing this universal access. As we look to the future and recognize a need for connecting our internal customers as well as our residents with key systems and data, the city network plays an important role in bridging this gap.

Another critical example is the City and County of Denver’s preparations to on-board Smart Cities technology and securely connect IoT devices for driving data collection and analysis. We are looking to create an enterprise data management system that is secure, scalable, and offers interoperability, providing flexibility to grow and evolve with the ever-changing advancement of technology in the Smart Cities space. Our Enterprise Network is a key component in achieving this vision.

5. What is your advice for the upcoming or budding CIOs?

Invest in your people—they are the engine which moves your business forward. With over 300 employees, my first priority is always my employees. The heart of the Technology Services department comes from fostering a culture of teamwork, empowerment, and innovation. One essential way in which I focus on building the right culture within the department is by administering the final round of interviews for any candidate being considered for hire. To me, it is important that we onboard people who not only possess the right skill sets, but who will contribute to the positive culture we have cultivated.

Furthermore, it’s important to invest in your emotional intelligence, relationship-building, and interpersonal skills. You will always need the technological know-how, but it’s imperative to additionally focus on building strong interpersonal skills. For example, nine years into my IT career, I decided to get an MBA to build upon the technical skills I already possessed. There I had the opportunity to expand my horizons by working collaboratively with engineers, accountants, CIOs, product owners, and many other students from different educational and professional fields. The best CIOs are the ones who have both technical and interpersonal skills and can bridge the gap between a wide variety of business partners. These interpersonal skills are also important to better collaborate with and understand the needs of the customer.

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