Texas CIO Robinson to step down at end of year

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Texas Chief Information Officer Karen Robinson will retire from state government at the end of this calendar year, ending her five-year tenure atop the Texas Department of Information Resources where she restructured and stabilized the state’s once-troubled data center outsourcing agreement, and greatly improved client satisfaction within the state’s massive government.

While Robinson undertook a number of high-profile projects, none perhaps got more attention than the state’s data center consolidation efforts. In 2006, three years before Robinson took office, the state signed a seven-year data center consolidation contract with IBM worth $863 million that over time failed to deliver on certain milestones.

Under Robinson’s leadership, Texas severed its deal with International Business Machines Corp. in 2010 and rebid the project, which was won by Xerox Corp. Since then, customer satisfaction among state agencies using the system has grown consistently since the turn-around. This year, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers presented the state with a special recognition award for the governance model it put in place to manage the project.

Robinson also made significant additions to the department’s executive leadership team, including Todd Kimbriel, who joined the office as its chief operations officer and was recently promoted to deputy chief information officer for Texas as the deputy executive director of DIR.

Earlier this month, DIR released a Legacy Systems Study showing that more than half of the state’s mission-critical systems are in need of replacement or upgrade and could leave the state susceptible to cyber security breaches if not addressed. Robinson is an advocate of the study and a strong supporter of its findings.

Robinson joined DIR in 2009 as the agency’s interim executive director and was awarded the position full time in 2010. Before joining the agency, she served as the director of administration and technology to Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). She also was a technical adviser to former Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) as well as to the lieutenant governor’s office and the Texas State Senate.

Currently, Robinson serves as chair of the Texas CIO Academy, chair of Government Technology Conference Southwest, and 2012 governing body co-chair of the Dallas CIO Executive Summit. She was recently selected by International Data Group’s Computerworld as a 2012 Premier 100 IT Leader, spotlighting leaders from technology and business for their exceptional technology leadership and innovative approaches to business challenges.

Earlier this year, she was also one of the first StateScoop 50 Award winners that honored leaders in government technology that worked to make a difference.

Robinson’s departure is the first of what could be many within state governments in coming weeks. With 36 governor elections this year, including in Texas where 14-year incumbent Perry is not running for re-election, there is a chance that several states will see new leaders atop their technology departments.

While Robinson is not appointed directly by the governor — her position is instead selected by a seven-member board — each of those board members are selected by the governor to act as a guide for the state’s use of information technology.

“I was entrusted with one of the most critical aspects of public service: the technology infrastructure of the state. I believe we have shown that collaboration and communication are the keys for successful state IT,” Robinson said.
 
Robinson made no announcement of plans for after her retirement, except that she intends to spend more time with her family on their ranch near Austin.

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