Michigan’s CIO and CTO give frank insights on the state of gov. IT – Part 1

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder believes technology can transform government but how it works and how it interacts with its citizens. It’s state CIO David Behen’s job to turn the governor’s vision into reality.  Behen was recently named one of Government Technology's Top 25 in Government.

Behen is aided in his quest with CTO Rob Davenport. 

Both men sat down with Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINISIDER for a two-part interview talking about the state of Michigan's IT. 

"We had a tough time the last 12 years or so because of the economy. But my predecessors Terry Takai and Ken Theis helped set a foundation for me and my team to come in and do great things," said Behen. 

Techie Governor 

"We are fortunate to have Gov. Snyder who has an IT background and Jack Nixon who is the Director of Technology Management and Budgets on our side. The three of us and my team have been a major part of reinventing Michigan IT. I have all the government sponsorship I need to be successful," said Behen. 

Timeline of Reinvention

  • 2011 was the year of planning. We saw where we've been and where we need to go. 
  • 2012 was the year we really started to move forward and get the funding we needed. 
  • 2013 is the year where the rubber needs to meet the road. 

More with Less Mantra

"The states have largely gotten use to it. When we got here in 2011, the Gov. and John were convinced that technology would enable us to do more with less. Our caseloads are going to keep going up as are our requests for service, the only way we can really keep up is through the innovative use of technology," said Behen. 

Funding

"Here in Michigan we've been funded pretty well. We have a $47 million dollar investment fund that's allowing us to take a real look at our critical legacy systems and replace them. That's a lot of money but it doesn't fix everything. The good news is that money is in our base budget so we are able to plan out 5-10 years on how we are going to spend those dollars. We are really able to invest in the critical foundation of technology," said Behen. 

Role of Innovation

"CTO Rod Davenport really focuses on innovation. He asks constantly what can the state do to be more innovative with the use of technology. We need to become more agile. We need to have a hybrid approach about how we provide technology services to our clients. What I mean by that is what the state of Michigan is good at we will continue to do and what we are not, we are going to look to our IT partners and have them come in with their innovative solutions and do it for us," said Behen. 

Role of the CTO

"In 2011 we had Gartner come in and do an assessment for us. We didn't have anyone pushing us as an organization towards innovation. That's what I wanted my CTO to do. I wanted him to come in and talk about innovations, new technologies, how to work with the enterprise etc. I also asked Rod to take a leadership role with our IT partners because they play such a critical role we needed someone who could manage and push them," said Behen. 

How do CTO and CIO work together?

"I don't want to overuse the word synergistic but that's our relationship. I focus on the hard technologies piece with an innovation slant. We don't really operate with a divide and conquer mentality but more working together as a centralized team," said Davenport. 

Hire Smart

"You have to hire people who are smarter than you. Hiring can be an issue for states because they can't match what the private sector can in terms of compensation. But I brag that we are able to hire 8 out of 10 people who interview for a least a couple of years," said Behen. 

Stay tuned tomorrow for part two of the interview where Behen and Davenport talk about cultivating innovation. 

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