Meet the StateScoop 50 GoldenGov Nominees: Minnesota CIO Tom Baden

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Tom Baden has placed a strong emphasis on cybersecurity as Minnesota’s chief information officer.

During Baden’s first year at the helm of MN.IT Services — Minnesota’s information technology agency, the state implemented a comprehensive set of policies and standards, and established a risk profile for each of the state’s business partners. Now, the state is looking for new ways to expand its information security program. 

Baden’s work on these efforts earned him a nomination for a GoldenGov award at this year’s StateScoop 50 Awards, which highlights the visionary leaders leading state government into a new technology landscape. 

StateScoop talked with Baden about his work in Minnesota, his achievements over the last year and the challenges the state faces going forward.

Editor’s note: This interview was edited for clarity and conciseness.

StateScoop: Tell us about some of your main achievements over the past year that may have resulted in your nomination for a GoldenGov award?

Tom Baden: This year we set three priorities for our agency: Secure the state from cyberthreats, improve IT services through collaboration and deliver better shared services to our partners. Cybersecurity has been my top priority as CIO for the state, and we are making significant progress in this area. Next, MN.IT has been working closely with our business partners to accelerate our budget and rate-setting process so that our partners have ample time to plan their IT budgets. Around shared services, we consolidated WAN and LAN staff and network technologies, compressed 49 data centers to 31, and are now focusing on refining our people and processes around personal computing and help desk.

SS: What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time in your role? What’s still left to be done?

TB: As state CIO, I am most proud of our efforts to secure Minnesota from cyberthreats. This year we have implemented a comprehensive set of policies and standards, created a risk profile for each of our business partners, and developed a strategic plan for implementation over the coming years. This plan was developed by our partners in government and leaders in the private sector. Gov. Mark Dayton has made cybersecurity one of his priorities this legislative session. 

Moving forward, our team will search for ways to expand the reach of our information security program to be a better resource for all Minnesotans. Our current efforts have focused on securing state agencies. We hope to leverage what we have done to help secure local governments, businesses and our citizens.

SS: What’s been the biggest challenge you guys have faced in the past year? How’d you overcome it?

TB: After the first four years of IT consolidation in Minnesota, MN.IT has had to rebuild a culture of collaboration with our business partners. To strengthen that relationship, our vision was to work closely and creatively with our partners so they can deliver on their projects with the best IT solutions and make it an explicit priority for each of our staff. The vision of our agency is now centered around the idea of being partners in performance. This strategy has helped us become better partners and has engaged our employees around one vision for the organization.

SS: Why public service? What lessons would you like to share with the next generation of state and local IT leaders?

TB: After 34 years as a public servant, the thing that brings me to work every day is the shared purpose of serving our family, friends and neighbors, and supporting the mission-driven work of state government. My advice to the next generation of state and local IT leaders is to find a problem that you are passionate about solving and bring your technology skills to the table to deliver solutions. We have an opportunity move government forward, and I believe it’s an exciting time for the next generation to be part of this work.

SS: What advice do you have for next year’s eventual class of GoldenGov nominees?

TB: My advice to the next class of GoldenGov nominees is to lead by example. Success is not about you; it is about the hard work and dedication of the team. By putting the success of the team above personal success, the whole organization will move forward. People are capable of doing amazing things — sometimes you just have to get out of the way.

This Q&A is part of a StateScoop series highlighting the nominees for the StateScoop 50 GoldenGov award. To vote for this nominee, and to vote in the other categories up for awards, go to the StateScoop 50 awards page. Winners of the StateScoop 50 awards will be announced on May 4.

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Careers & Elected Officials, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Cybersecurity, Innovation, Minnesota, State & Local News, States, StateScoop 50 Awards, Tech News, Tom Baden
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