Commissioner Inman, shortly after you arrived in Frankfort you announced five goals your office was going to focus on— take an enterprise approach to IT, offer IT as a utility to state agencies, continue to establish enterprise standards and architecture, promote technology in Kentucky’s educational systems and help keep and attract high-tech companies to Kentucky. Are you pleased with the progress you’ve been able to make so far?
I am quite pleased. We have made solid progress toward these goals—we have recently completed a very thorough discovery phase, which in turn has allowed us to properly align our resources and assemble an effective management team. During that phase, three main drivers have emerged from our goals: reduce cost and improve efficiency through data and infrastructure consolidation; improve the level of service we offer, especially through hands-on project oversight; and review and increase data security.
We are entering a pilot phase with our infrastructure consolidation plan. Reception has been favorable, and we hope to be making an announcement in the near future regarding our specific consolidation approach. Our biggest challenges lie ahead, but we are steadfast in our determination to bring about a change that will undoubtedly improve our agency's ability to serve the commonwealth.
You came to Kentucky from the private sector. However, your resume has extensive experience in both the military and with government agencies. How challenging has it been to try to reshape how state government approaches technology services and infrastructure?
Having successfully operated in both sectors, I have a keen sense of what role IT can and should play in supporting the strategic goals and objectives of any business. What I’m planning to do here in Frankfort is to develop an agile IT business model that can respond more quickly to the needs of our customers—all the citizens of the commonwealth. We accomplish this by allowing the various state agencies to get out of the business of supporting their own individual IT operations and, instead, aggregate that service within COT. This allows the agencies to focus on being responsive to those customer needs through the development of applications and other services. If COT can help those agencies act in a more “front-office” capacity, while providing them with efficient, secure, and service-oriented IT operations, then we will be successful in overcoming this challenge. Take a look around—Kentucky is not the only state attempting a more “privatized” approach to the IT business model. There is nothing especially novel in our thinking, but rather pragmatic.
In your vision, you talk about having an impact on education and on the economy through technology. What steps have you taken to fulfill this part of your vision?
I have recently commenced a deliberate plan and mini-speaking tour targeting postsecondary institutions in the commonwealth. I feel it is imperative that technology and associated skill sets play an increased role in training of our future workers. Only by accomplishing this goal of building a more technically savvy workforce can our great commonwealth hope to compete in the increasingly digital economy, both in terms of keeping and attracting high-tech companies. I would add that it is this administration’s belief that state government, among its many employment opportunities, should offer a viable career path in these technical fields. That’s why we’re developing an internship program targeting technology students to reach out to our colleges and universities and allow students to get real-world experience in the public sector.
It’s important to mention the work that an organization called connectkentucky is doing to help support the governor’s “Prescription for Innovation.” For a number of years, connectkentucky has been researching and developing a plan to greatly expand broadband Internet access to underserved areas of the state. That will benefit students in those areas and level the playing field for economic growth.
Techlines: What is the biggest challenge you face in 2005?
Our biggest challenge today is increased investment in our human capital. We have the responsibility for providing our human resources with the opportunity to reach and maintain their fullest potential as it relates to the technology efforts undertaken by the commonwealth. Contract expertise has its place, but for too long this has come at the expense of denying our workforce the responsibility and accountability for these skills. It’s time to rethink our approach in striking this balance. Our vision calls for a new kind of IT worker for state government. Someone I call a “versatilist,” who is constantly upgrading their IT skills and is ready when we need to move forward. In the future, our personnel profile may show fewer technology workers in state government, but the skill level will be higher. We also face the challenge of having a very high number of employees retiring. Many are leaving us with skills that they’ve developed over the years on systems that are older technology. So we have to maintain knowledge transfer on current systems and at the same time develop a new approach and new skills for technology that will match the direction in which we are taking our office. Finally, we face the challenges of getting new employees to join the public sector, which can include the trade off for lower wages in lieu of the security of a pension.
Techlines: What’s the most significant improvement you see coming down the road that will improve how Kentucky conducts business or operates?
Commissioner Inman: Gov. Fletcher, in his “Prescription for Innovation,” clearly lays this groundwork. By focusing on increased residential use of computers, and, of course, providing the broadband infrastructure to support it, Kentucky’s citizens will greatly benefit from the increased e-government services that will follow. COT’s role in all of this is to provide, among other things, the support for respective agencies to define and develop what these e-government solutions are. This integrated and collaborative approach to technology is most certainly the single largest improvement that lies ahead for Kentucky.
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