Colorado CIO Theresa Szczurek shares her three WIGs

Colorado state Chief Information Officer Theresa Szczurek has three “wildly important goals,” or WIGs, as she affectionately calls them, all targeted at improving “customer delight,” another favorite idiom of the technology official.

The first WIG, she told StateScoop at a conference earlier this month, centers on improving the efficiency, transparency and customer satisfaction at the Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology.

This includes changes to the state’s technology workforce, she said. To adapt, the state created a chief strategy office, which will manage planning and performance, and also some of the state’s marketing functions, she said.

“We’re looking at our projects and how to make sure they’re delivered on time, on budget, improving billing and contracting and embracing more of an agile mindset,” she said.

Szczurek’s second WIG is cybersecurity. When the Colorado Department of Transportation was infected by ransomware in February 2018, nearly 2,000 computers, servers and network devices were encrypted, and the state had to spend about $1.5 million to repair its systems. But then-Gov. John Hickenlooper’s decision to declare an emergency and rally help from state and federal authorities is thought to have made the best from a bad situation. Szczurek also credits the state’s cybersecurity plan.

“Because of our cybersecurity plan and protection, we came out really well and so we are working to strengthen our plan and be able to additionally defend and deflect and protect the state,” she said.

Szczurek’s third goal is to improve digital access for the state’s residents. With a goal to deliver 100 percent broadband access to the state’s residents by 2022, she said Colorado is already off to a great start. In the last three and a half years, Szczurek said, connectivity in the state’s rural regions have increased from 59 percent to 86 percent coverage. That’s “tremendous progress,” but there’s still more to do, she said, including continuing to build out the state’s one-stop resident portal, called myColorado, which is currently in beta.

Beyond her WIGs, Szczurek said her office has also established an innovation lab where officials can test new technologies like blockchain and chatbots to support critical government functions. Gov. Jared Polis has made several moves this year as he attempts to establish Colorado as an industry hub for the distributed-ledger technology, including creating the state’s first blockchain architect role.

“There are so many emerging technologies,” she said. “Our goal is to set them up and fail fast if they’re not going to work, get rid of them if they’re not going to work, but if they have potential, run a case study so we really understand the costs and the benefits and we can help proliferate them throughout the state.”

Szczurek on workforce:

“Our number one priority asset in the state are our people. So we are constantly asking the question, ‘What can we do to attract, retain and train the right people?’”

Szczurek on digital services and mobility:

“Digital services is important in Colorado because we want to go anywhere, anytime where our residents need services and help them get access to Colorado. This is where we have been studying how people interact with government currently and we’re finding that more people have access to mobile devices than we thought.”

Szczurek on how she sees her role changing in the future:

“I see my role as the chief information officer as really lighting a fire in our people and aligning that passion, which is my favorite word, to the goals.”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in October 2019.