, ,

Building the Best Team Across Hundreds of Silos: A Mississippi Case Study

In constructing a championship team, coaches and general managers try to find a blend of the right people and culture; one of the two is not enough.

A team with the best players will go far but often will crumble at the point of adversity because of a lack of culture, which should anchor the team during rough conditions. A team with the right culture, conversely, will have the wherewithal and cohesion to work relentlessly for the mission, but can lose out to opposition that is simply better at the trade of the game.

Government workforces face similar challenges in recruitment and retention, but the environments they work within are extremely different. When many think of a workforce, particularly one within the IT realm, they think of it as a likeminded team that is tackling similar challenges across the board.

In Mississippi, and in many states, however, the situation is far more complex. IT teams exist not in a singular department but as small branches of large agencies, and often have to fight for their recognition and the acknowledgment of their goals.

“The challenge is: How do you bring collective urgency across disparate agencies that are full of bright and dedicated public servants … across 120-plus agencies in Mississippi?” Craig Orgeron, Mississippi Chief Information Officer and Executive Director of Information Technology Services, said.

While many states have centralized IT budgets, Mississippi instead functions as a “federated” state, parceling out IT and cybersecurity budgets to individual agencies. Orgeron’s responsibilities come by way of advocacy, training, fully harnessing the capability of the state data center and pioneering the incorporation of shared service missions.

“You really want to go faster, to do more, but you have to ensure that you’ve got the team, the capability and the foundational pieces are in place,” Orgeron said. “Then, you start moving on to more advanced solutions across the enterprise.”

Finding the right team is one of Orgeron’s top priorities in 2019, and the goal is fundamental to maturing in cybersecurity – the No. 1 goal of NASCIO for six years running. So in fielding the team, one that can work through adversity and bring unique skillsets to each agency, Orgeron has homed in on updating state position listings.

While Mississippi has invested in geographic information systems (GIS) and emerging technologies, the state lacks a specific job category to draw the eyes of would-be recruits. Modernizing job descriptions in cyber, GIS and other related areas is essential to ensuring that the state can innovate as quickly as it wants, Orgeron said.

“That is a pretty big strategic effort,” Orgeron said. “It’s just wildly important to have great people.”

Orgeron stressed that in the highly competitive fields of technology employment, the public sector needed to upgrade the pay structure for indispensably important positions in the IT field. After all, the team has the culture – but it also needs to have the players to make it work.

“There’s only so much of a delta that you can tolerate to keep really smart, engaged workers plugged in to what it is you’re doing,” Orgeron said.

Still, Orgeron stressed that while the private sector had often been able to lure away talent with higher salaries and flashy perks, the public sector needed to emphasize its generational strengths – its stability and mission. Those, he said, are unmatched by other organizations.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “Intelligent Innovation: Tech Trends Taking Root in State and Local Governments.” Download the full guide here.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply