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Keep Raising the Bar

By Morgan Reed, CIO, State of Arizona

Morgan Reed, CIO, State of Arizona

During my time as the Chief Information Officer for the State of Arizona, I have met some of the brightest and best people I’ve ever worked with, which has led to many stimulating conversations about where the State should be from an IT perspective. The government has had a reputation for accepting the status quo and setting the bar low when it comes to serving constituents, and each other. With everything that is possible through technology, citizens are expecting more from the government. This has forced us to take a long, hard look in the mirror and identify areas of opportunity and raise the bar.

As long as there has been government, there has never been a shortage of challenges to overcome. Unfortunately, the government has not been known for using creative solutions to solve these challenges. Fortunately for Arizona, our Governor has challenged us to rethink the way government works and is asking us: “How can we make our government more efficient and effective?” He created the Arizona Management System, which uses lean principles to standardize processes and remove waste, allowing for more efficiencies and a nimbler government. This has aligned state agencies to operate as one entity and move at the speed of business.

We are actively looking for opportunities to work with our customers to bring more value for a better price. To get a win-win scenario, we must know and understand our customer’s needs, including internal employees. Often, they know the needs, problems, and solutions better than anyone. The Arizona Management System has empowered all State of Arizona employees to identify real problems and find solutions. Our employees are more engaged and vested than ever before. What makes it more exciting is that everyone is talking about the improvements, whether big or small. This has allowed us to implement innovative, cross-functional technology solutions to engage with employees throughout the state.

One of our biggest transformative projects is moving to the cloud. We want agencies to be looking for cloud-based solutions and move away from unsupported legacy systems that leave us vulnerable to security risks. We are also enterprising our email system and digitizing services, which will allow us to serve our customers faster, better, and cheaper. Additionally, we are utilizing solutions such as Workplace by Facebook, which allows us to engage in real time with employees as well as on-the-go with the mobile application, slashing historic work silos in the process. Local government organizations are embracing technologies such as streaming video and mobile apps which enable easier sharing and the ability to communicate more frequently, both of which foster continuous improvements.

All this transformation hasn’t been without setbacks. Culture is one of the hardest things to change and for some people, it’s easier to maintain the status quo and keep the bar low. Asking employees to come forward and identify problems and solutions brings with it some hesitation from employees. Having regular huddle meetings has helped many of our employees overcome initial fear of the new culture. We meet weekly to assess different areas of the business, celebrating our wins and discussing solutions for any problems we are facing. Employees are responsible for reporting out at the meetings and the whole division is responsible for actively engaging in problem-solving and recognizing employees for their hard work. I consider each employee the owners of their “products”. If their products are failing, they’re responsible. If their products are succeeding, they’re responsible. We feel that the most important part of moving at the speed of business is the moving. These weekly huddles ensure that every employee keeps moving forward, together.

Everyone in every organization should challenge themselves to identify areas of improvement, identify metrics of the current state of things, come up with solutions and set goals of how you will measure progress. If there is one thing “we the people” are good at, it’s finding innovative solutions to tough problems. Keep connecting with your customers and employees, and continue to set the bar high to ensure your organization’s growth in the future.