The Grand Canyon State Talks Innovation

Starting a new job can be overwhelming, especially if that new job is to helm and modernize a state’s IT department. In order to learn more about how a transition like this can be done successfully, this week’s State and Local Spotlight brought together GovLoop’s Emily Jarvis and Arizona’s Chief Information Officer, Morgan Reed, to discuss how he’s fostered innovation in the first year on the job.

Reed hasn’t been a career civil servant long, but he emphasized that he’s already seen some of the things that government is doing to make big changes fast. He explained, “knowing that our leadership was aligned to go big or go home and is willing to take those big swings technology wise was really empowering.”

This ability allowed Reed and his team to support agencies in overcoming challenges like procurement and outdated funding models. While Reed emphasized the difficulty of moving innovation forward in the public sector, he also highlighted how great the government community is at supporting its workforce. “That is one of the great things about the National Association of State Information Officers [an annual conference that brings together state IT professionals], we are learning what other states have done to solve a challenge and we are able to talk shop and share best practices,” he said.

Some of Arizona’s best practices are working to overcome technology and culture challenges simultaneously. Reed explained that there are thirty different email systems in the state, but his agencies are not adding value by having their own email, as it is making it harder to collaborate. On the tech side, Arizona is working to consolidate into one email services. However, Reed emphasized that he also has to get hesitant agency directors onboard with his consolidation plan.

He is doing this by using data. By showing agencies that consolidation can raise outputs while cut down costs, it is easier to get stakeholder buy-in on modernization efforts. Reed underscored, “hopefully the data will speak more loudly than anything we can say and give directors a reason to consolidate and modernize services.”

One success story that Reed was particularly proud of was implementing Facebook at Work. The platform is a Facebook offshoot that allows users to connect with coworkers, post content on public walls, as well as schedule meetings. Reed explained that the platform has really helped in breaking down silos across agencies as well as up and down leadership.

Reed emphasized that the best part about the platform is that it takes zero training because everyone already knows how to use it. Additionally, the state of Arizona owns the data, “fostering open employee to employee communication all the way down from the governor’s office the newest employee in the state,” Reed said.

Looking forward, Reed is hoping to build a world class IT organization by bringing together the right people to transform the technology. In order to do this, he plans to develop and publish a technology roadmap that transparently shows where the state is and where they hope to go. Reed concluded, “ultimately, what we want to achieve is delivering transformative technologies for the state.”

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