Kentucky's new CIO tackles infrastructure consolidation

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Just a month into the job and Jim Fowler, Kentucky’s new chief information officer, is tasked with leading the state’s technology infrastructure consolidation program, which officially began July 1.

Fowler, who came to Kentucky after serving as the deputy commissioner for information technology and telecommunications of New York City, said the program would consolidate the infrastructure of the state’s executive branch cabinet agencies, along with a number of sub-agencies and commissions.

“We have a lot of challenges ahead of us, but what I’ve found here is an organization that is well-structured to take them on,” Fowler said in an interview with StateScoop.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear created the infrastructure project with an executive order last October. The past nine months have been used to plan the project that is expected to take about a year and a half to complete.

Fowler said the project will encompass anything infrastructure related from servers, databases and telephony to networking, storage, desktops and VoIP.

“Anything that looks and feels like infrastructure,” Fowler said.

Janet Lile, executive director for Kentucky’s Office of Enterprise Technology, told StateScoop that Fowler’s appointment is a major step for the state, which has not had a full-time CIO for several years. Instead, Lori Flanery, the secretary of Finance and Administration, served that role in an acting authority since 2010, along with her other duties as well.

Having a full-time CIO was one of the recommendations of a consulting group the state hired last year, which also recommended the infrastructure program. And part of that, Lile said, was bringing in the state’s IT infrastructure employees under one roof.

Before, those IT employees were spread throughout each agency, but now have been brought together under the CIO’s authority as part of the governor’s executive order.

“Secretary Flanery was more than qualified for the position, but it was only part of many of her duties, so to get a full-time CIO that can lead a number of these initiatives at a critical time is really important.”

As for other priorities, Fowler said the state plans to spend a lot of energy on improving its analytics through big data and increase the ways agencies share information.

One of the key areas to target is fraud, especially with respect to taxes.

“The value of data increases exponentially when we begin to share it,” Fowler said. “It’s about finding those relationships that we didn’t know existed and extracting as much value as we can from them.”

After coming from the municipal level of IT, Fowler said he sees some differences in how states operate.

“On the municipal side we were more engaged in the tactical side of things – improving the 311 process on the iPhones, giving citizens a way to track snow plows during storms – more action-oriented things,” Fowler said. “While it’s just been a few weeks, I can already see that the states take a more deliberate and strategic approach, finding ways to derive value from information technology.”

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Janet Lile, Jim Fowler, Kentucky, Lori Flanery, States, Steve Beshear
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