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DeAngela Burns-Wallace, chief information technology officer of Kansas

What lesson will you take with you from the pandemic?

Making time to strategize and plan can make all the difference not only in execution but buy-in from staff and stakeholders. We get so caught up in the day-to-day that we don’t always have enough time to clear the roadmap and ensure everyone is on the same page. The pandemic helped us take stock, regroup and realign toward common goals.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the pandemic?

Balancing the ever-changing and unprecedented business and IT needs and keeping our staff whole — physically and mentally. We were called on to do things to support business operations that we have not done before or at speed for which we don’t usually operate. We met the challenge and supported the delivery of services to Kansans across the state but it was important to not meet this demand at the cost of staff themselves.

What’s an underappreciated IT practice or technology that more people should know about?

Design thinking. Over the years I have learned more and more from colleagues at Stanford d.school. Design thinking can be defined as iterative processes in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding. At its core, it is the belief that human-centered design is powerful. The power lies in the teams, leaders, partners and stakeholders working in more effective, collaborative and strategic ways.

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