It’s a small step, but it was met with enthusiasm by the state agency commissioners Thursday sick and tired of carrying around two cellphones all day because their personal phones can’t receive state email.
Mark Raymond, chief information officer at the Bureau of Enterprise Systems and Technology, said the pilot program that will allow them to receive state email on their personal devices will start out small with the expectation that it will be offered to a much larger group of state employees once the kinks are worked out.
Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Ben Barnes said he can’t wait to receive state email on his personal cellphone. Currently the state doesn’t allow any emails to be sent to anything, but state issued Blackberrys. Barnes, an iPhone user, can’t wait to ditch the Blackberry.
“Our business is your business,” Raymond said during a presentation to state agency commissioners. “We can’t be effective unless you are. This bureau needs to be about generating value, not about generating costs.”
The pilot program is just part of the new customer friendly model Raymond’s new Bureau of Enterprise Systems and Technology [B.E.S.T.], now part of the Department of Administrative Services, intends to offer state agencies.
The state’s efforts at improving their information technology over the past few decades has been called “sporadic.”
Raymond, who was appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in May, said he understands why Connecticut is behind the curve.
In 1998 the state made an ambitious effort to outfit itself with technology, but unfortunately that effort was never completed and the piece meal system envisioned is what remains today. He said a lot of the decisions regarding technology were left up to the individual agencies and there wasn’t a centralized effort by the former Department of Information Technology to pull it all together or help agencies work together.
“After some of those early investments, nothing has really changed much since then,” Raymond said. To be blunt, “The results of this have not been good.”
The result was technology which did not match the mission or business of the various state agencies.
“Without that connection to the business IT was viewed almost universally as an impediment to get their business done,“ Raymond said. “Agencies in turn, turned to individual consultants to help them support their individual choice in technology.”
DOIT could deny any agencies request for new software, server space, or technology much of which was proposed through outside consultants.
What that meant is DOIT “could tell you ‘No‘, but it couldn’t help you get to ‘Yes‘.”
These improvements may have helped individual agencies reach their goals, but it created silos between various departments. Raymond said he’s trying to break down those silos and is thinking more about shared clouds.
“What could we have done more efficiently together than we could have done on our own?” Raymond said. “We’re changing the internal culture from command control to collaborate and create.”
“To say Connecticut is behind the technology curve is to greatly understate the severity of the state’s technology problem,” Malloy said when he appointed Raymond. “These inefficiencies cost Connecticut taxpayers money and, in some cases, the inability to merge systems and allow agencies to share information is downright frustrating, and even dangerous.
Raymond said there’s a lot of data locked up in legacy systems created by specific agencies and those state agencies have a hard time getting data out of their systems.
“We’re going to take data out of jail—apologies to the Department of Corrections—and make it available,” Raymond said.
One of the state agencies plagued by a legacy system, hardly anyone knows how to use, is the Department of Social Services.
Earlier this year, DSS Commissioner Roderick Bremby told his fellow commissioners that his department processes some 3.7 million pieces of paper a month. Hardly anything in his department is digitized.
Relying on paper documents means that if the application for services is lost or a caseworker is out sick, it doesn’t get processed right away. Adding insult to injury, caseworkers have to empty their voicemail twice a day because it fills up and the space can’t be adjusted.
Asked if Raymond was making progress, Bremby said he was diligently working on it. Department of Correction Commissioner Leo Arnone overheard the statement and jokingly said he should be first since his department’s technology is older than Bremby’s.
Raymond, who came to the state from the private sector, said he’s excited about the challenges he’s faced since taking over the bureau. He entered public service because there was only so much change he could affect as an outside consultant.