Meet the StateScoop 50 GoldenGov Nominees: Rhode Island CIO Thom Guertin

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A key measure of an IT project’s success is whether it comes in on time and within budget, Rhode Island’s Chief Information Officer Thom Guertin said. 

Guertin said he was proud his team hit that target on its migration to Microsoft Office 365 and a rollout of a new mobile device program this past year. At the same time, Guertin has continued work to modernize legacy systems and find ways to streamline operations — two areas most states grapple with. 

Guertin’s efforts earned him a nomination for a StateScoop 50 GoldenGov award, which highlights the government leaders making waves in the government information technology arena. 

StateScoop caught up with Guertin to talk about the work he’s achieved in Rhode Island, what brought him to public service and his advice for the next generation of state and local IT leaders.

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?

Thom Guertin: We’ve successfully delivered a number of enterprise solutions on time and on budget, including Office 365 and mobile device rollout, as well as modernizing a number of legacy systems. We are also in the thick of some major projects that will streamline operations and increase productivity, including our new statewide e-permitting platform for agencies and municipalities and a cloud-based scheduling, time, leave and attendance system. I was very happy to work on a key contract to bring broadband to one of Rhode Island’s gems – Block Island — in this past year as well. Our third release of the integrated tax system is set to launch later this year as well, which will be a significant for that division. We’ve also led a number of lean projects in the agencies and implemented agile methodologies on many of our development projects. It’s been great to get the business owners and developers working side by side to solve problems in real time.

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

TG: Increased communication and accountability. I spend a lot of time meeting with our internal clients/stakeholders to ensure that we meet their needs and understand their problems. It’s something we’ve been working hard to institutionalize at every level. We still have a long way to go to reduce duplication of systems and effort, but we’ve been making real progress in those areas as well. We are working right now on a new process to budget for IT projects and solve the sustainable funding problems that plague all governments.

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

TG: Resistance to change and breaking down the silos that exist between the agencies. We’ve been working to get more technical people out in the field, meeting with customers and leading discussions. We actively promote new systems and look for ways to leverage these solutions across the enterprise.

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

TG: I grew up in Rhode Island and moved away for more than 20 years. I love the state and saw this as a great opportunity to make a real difference. The challenges are endless and the breadth of experience you gain is invaluable. I see it as a great career move because there’s always a new problem to be solved, which leads to growth.

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

TG: Be a change champion through your actions and listen to your customers before your provide solutions.

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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Broadband, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Cloud Computing, Digital Services, Innovation, Mobility, Rhode Island, State & Local News, States, StateScoop 50 Awards, Tech News, Thom Guertin
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