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Jennifer Ricker, CIO of Illinois

How has the profile of your role changed during the pandemic?

In my experience, it was elevated before the last six months or a year when we created this new agency, DoIT. I think that really elevated the role of CIO here. There’s certainly been a huge demand on our agency than in the past because of everything everyone’s had to deal with. There are a lot more conversations going on on the business side with other agencies. There’s a much more consultant role for us to help guide them. 

What lesson will you take with you from the pandemic?

The need to pivot during COVID accelerated things like using AI types of technologies, looking at our websites and front-end user experience. We thought we had more time to work on that, but when everything shut down we were in a position of where this was almost the only way residents of Illinois were able to interact with us, so we had to accelerate that. The need to scale really rapidly with some challenges early on with some of our systems that got heavily hit. Early on we needed to re-platform our websites to new servers. Those things are on our mind going forward, taking an omni-channel approach, so regardless of how a resident interacts with us, we can handle whatever that might be.

How do you anticipate managing a hybrid or remote model of work going forward?

Sometimes I think government is slow to pivot on the trends. I do think over the past year it’s been proven we can successfully work remotely, and not just a smaller portion of the state’s workforce. That was the norm prior to last year. I think we’ve shown that from a technological perspective, employees have still been very productive. I think decisions are still to be made here. We’re going to support it no matter what it looks like. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a hybrid approach in the future.

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