Virginia technology officials say new organization is ‘extremely good’
In Virginia, the state’s technology bureau has long been relegated to maintaining critical technology infrastructure, with less time for innovation than some officials may have wanted. But having now escaped a toxic relationship with IT vendor Northrop Grumman, developing instead a multi-vendor model for IT service delivery and last year creating two new roles to support statewide Chief Information Officer Nelson Moe, things are changing in Virginia.
For both Jonathan Ozovek, chief operating officer, and Dan Wolf, chief administrative officer, last month marked one year of work in their new roles at the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. Moe last year explained the new roles were needed to free him up to manage the handful of new technology vendors the state took on under its multi-vendor model and to act as an evangelist for VITA as it began asserting itself as a technology leader within the state government. More recently, Moe told StateScoop the last 12 months have shown that the new model is working.
“It has been extremely good for me and the agency and the commonwealth that we have this organizational architecture in place,” Moe said. “It has aligned the three major service areas: cyber, the operations and then the administrative into three different areas, like the strong legs of a tripod.”
Moe said having the help of Wolf and Ozovek to manage administrative and operational work that traditionally would have fell to the CIO freed him up to spend more time “thinking visionary” and marketing his agency’s offerings to the rest of the executive branch.
Ozovek, whose career before joining the Virginia state government included executive roles at companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers and Johnson and Johnson, said his COO role in Virginia is unique, a combination between operations and strategy that advances VITA’s “forward-looking” desire to anticipate customer needs.
He said his role has so far entailed operations like managing finance, supply chain and program management. Ozovek said he’s also built up the state’s use of data to understand how its services are consumed and how they can be improved so that VITA can be more proactive in serving its customers.
“When I walked in here last year, the methods of data collection and how much data we had at our disposal was inconsistent at best,” Ozovek said. “But now we have a full suite of data to monitor, measure and be able to understand what the true indicators and performance is across the ecosystem.”
After a shaky review from the state’s legislative auditor last fall, VITA’s new multi-vendor model is now mostly “stabilized,” Ozovek said, and officials are now looking to “optimize” their service offerings. He mentioned robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and predictive data analytics as examples of technologies VITA could use to meet agency calls for improved efficiency and cost avoidance.
Wolf, who took over as VITA’s chief administrative officer last year after serving as its policy director and legislative services director, said he’s also noticed a difference over the last year in how the agency operates.
“VITA had done a great job over the years doing its best to help its customers, but in state government it’s difficult to have the resources to be able to focus on taking care of yourself,” Wolf said. “Because just like being a parent, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your children.”
Most recently, he said, VITA rebranded with a new logo and developed a five-year plan that lays out strategy and a “hierarchy of needs” for state agencies. The most basic needs in that model, he said, are protective measures like keeping malicious actors out, followed by the need to collaborate, followed by the need to pursue new advances in technology, also known as innovation.
“The highest level of need is that innovation standpoint where you’re identifying not just what agencies know that they need, but what they don’t know that they need yet so that we can be anticipatory rather than reactionary, which is really difficult in a public sector,” Wolf said.