Citizen experience a priority for Minnesota’s CIO

Minnesota Chief Information Officer Tarek Tomes told StateScoop at a technology conference on Monday that his agency is leading the consumer and resident experience areas of a gubernatorial plan to improve the lives of all state residents.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s One Minnesota initiative seeks to improve life in Minnesota by working across Cabinet agencies. Walz tasked the state’s information technology department with leading customer experience, which Tomes said is “really about changing the way you work and changing the way you engage with Minnesotans, which has been really exciting.” 

“We have leadership that really understands and believes in the transformative power of technology,” Tomes said. “They really believe in improving the citizen’s experience and that digital frequently is an opportunity to improve that. We have this perfect trifecta of opportunity change that is happening within the executive branch and really focus from the top as it relates to the opportunity that serving people in a different way can really make a big difference.” 

Tomes is also helping to establish a new state agency called the Department of Children, Youth and Families, which he said is an opportunity to understand how data can be used in new ways to further government’s mission.

“You have to deal with everything from newly designed spaces, how to create a place for the workforce to engage and collaborate, but then also, you have this huge application portfolio from many different agencies that you’re bringing together and creates the groundwork for a new digital strategy that will really improve the lives of children and families in Minnesota,” Tomes said.

Tomes said the state’s $40 million technology modernization fund has helped foster excitement around technology. The fund is run like a startup pitch contest, similar to the reality television show Shark Tank.

“The types of ideas that we’ve seen have just been amazing — lots of digital services that change the way Minnesotans interact with government and opportunity to reduce risk, an opportunity to really change the way we work in different spaces,” Tomes said. “Ultimately, it’s created an incredible excitement within the executive branch that there is an opportunity for new and improved ways of working.”