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Missouri looks to collaboration, modernization to drive innovation

The state’s acting chief information officer, Rich Kliethermes, said that despite an over-emphasis on the buzzword, state government is finding innovation in surprising places.

Jake Williams
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Jake Williams Associate Publisher & Director of Strategic Initiatives

Jake Williams is currently the Associate Publisher & Director of Strategic Initiatives for StateScoop, based in Washington, D.C., where h...

Rich Kliethermes isn’t tired of innovation.

“That’s a piece of my job, and it should be,” Kliethermes, Missouri's acting chief information officer, says. “One can feel like we’re not innovating enough from a state perspective, but I look at that, and what I emphasize to my teams is that innovation comes in many forms and factors.”

In his office, Kliethermes says he considers the work his team does to partner with agencies to improve state operations as innovative — but sometimes, the demand for collaboration is actually more than the agency can handle.

“I think that just the demand [for collaboration is] exceeding the capacity from an agency side, as well as from the IT side,” Kliethermes says. “The world is moving so fast, and making sure that our constituents and our citizens that we have them in mind at the very beginning of the process [is key].”

Kliethermes says he prioritizes communication to get that collaboration done.

“Obviously it does take communication, it takes reaching out, and it takes — even in difficult situations — pulling teams together,” Kliethermes says. “But it has to happen, and you can be amazed at something that has drug on for an extended amount of time, or something that just seems to swirl, that when you get the right people in the room, you can get resolution very quickly.

In addition, he looks to drive that innovation by trying to empower his staff at all levels to “bring forth new ideas” — and it’s had real results on the department's output.

“We’ve seen that in some mobile development, we’ve seen that in a cloud perspective on some small projects that we’re doing that,” Kliethermes says.

Missouri is still moving forward on the modernization efforts he began in 2016, he told StateScoop in April. His team is working actively to push Medicaid eligibility projects “across the finish line.” The department has also pivoted to maintenance and operation support for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ Unemployment Insurance platform that went live in November.

Kliethermes and his team are also wrapping up modernization efforts for the state’s Department of Economic Development’s workforce division labor exchange system, as well as for the Department of Corrections.

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