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CIO Priorities: City of Miami

Posted on Saturday, Nov 21st 2009

By Guest Author Narayanan Raman

In the previous four articles, I spoke to CIOs from the corporate world, three from United States and one from India. I thought that in order to gain a well-rounded understanding of CIO priorities, I should interview a CIO from the public institutions space. This article discusses my interview with Peter Korinis, CIO of the City of Miami.

The City of Miami is faced with a two-fold challenge. The first challenge, which you might have already guessed, is operating effectively under constrained access to resources, mainly cash flows. The second challenge is a bit different and somewhat unusual. Miami has ambitious IT modernization plans, but the city itself has a computer and Internet penetration level that is much lower than that in many other U.S. cities, where the number can be close to 70%. This puts the city in a catch-22 – to modernize the IT offerings while simultaneously enabling its citizens, many of whom have depressed income levels, to have greater access to computers and the Internet to reap the benefits of Miami’s IT offerings.

Miami uses a balanced scorecard method to assess and prioritize its goals and objectives, and translates the goals and objectives that are related to IT into IT projects. At a very high level, the priorities for Miami are to have a customer-focused organization, to provide excellent government services and e-solutions to citizens, and to be cost effective through the use of improved processes. These priorities have been driven down into a series of project initiatives that affect IT and the strategic IT plan, which was initially developed in 2002 with a key focus on modernization, an approach which to a large extent remains the same today.

The specific projects initiated during 2002 as part of the strategic IT plan included modernizing a mainframe-based 911 computer-aided dispatch public safety system, an Oracle E-Business Suite ERP implementation, a 311 (citizen services center number) system, and a mainframe-based land management system, among others. To supplement the modernization projects, the City of Miami has undertaken an award-winning digital literacy program called “Elevate Miami” to deal with the catch-22 described above.

Most of the projects mentioned above, which were initiated in 2002 with a focus on modernizing the city’s IT infrastructure, are either complete or almost complete, while others are about half finished. Hence, in the past three months, due to constrained cash flows, Peter’s primary priority has been the reprioritization of these projects, in which he is taking a hard look at each one and deciding on their future course of action – continuing to build them, cutting them short, or stopping them entirely.

Additionally, like other CIOs, Peter is optimistic about the capabilities of virtualization and consolidation. He has a done a lot of server virtualization and has a 95% centralized organization with just one data center supporting all his operations. Peter is also optimistic about cloud computing and believes that adoption of cloud-based services will facilitate inter-government sharing of information and services going forward.

But when asked what he thinks about the government IT landscape in the immediate future, Peter’s response was serious and grim. He first explained that the state or city governments operate in a different context than does the federal government, because the federal government technically does not having the kind of cash flow constraints that the city and state governments have. Peter said, for example, that his budget was cut about23% this year, and the projection for next year is worse. He added that he has cut as many costs as possible and there is very little room, if any, to cut more! Hence, requests to cut more cost would now mean not cutting out “extra costs” to increase efficiency, but to start cutting services themselves. This is tricky as most of the services such as911 and waste management are critical. It becomes even more difficult as typically, citizens want all public services to continue, and more, but don’t want to pay extra taxes, and politicians do not want to alienate their constituents by promoting higher taxes.

My conversation with Peter Korinis illustrates a few of the differences in the way commercial and government IT organizations operate. In addition to typical project management considerations, an IT organization within a government is forced to think about several other factors such as the political landscape and the demographic composition of the state or city that it serves before designing and developing IT solutions.

This segment is a part in the series : CIO Priorities

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