The City of Worthington Discusses Better Integration Between the IT and Business Side of Your Organization
Gene Oliver - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree
City of Worthington
Founder and President
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IT Director for the City of Worthington, Gene Oliver, discusses better integration between the IT and business side of your organization.
BK: Hello, we are here today with Gene Oliver, who is the IT Director at the City of Worthington. They employ about 250 employees at the City of Worthington. My name is Bryan Kaiser and I'm the Founder and President of Vernovis, also part of the executive host committee for comSpark, and I will be your guest moderator today. So, let's get started. Gene, thanks for your time.
GO: Thank you, Bryan. Glad to be here.
BK: Wonderful. So, you've been the CIO now at City of Worthington for about one year.
BK: At what point in your career did you decide that you wanted to be a CIO?
GO: I would say it started about 15 years ago when I was at OCLC. I saw a need to both bring a different technology perspective to the current leadership that was in place, and to better align the technology outcomes with the business, with those business objectives.
BK: How have you seen the CIO role change over the years?
GO: Well, I think there's been a pretty substantial shift in moving away from thinking just about, uh, technology outcomes that are driven solely by the IT department to more, uh, business outcomes and partnering with, uh, other constituents within the organization to help facilitate those outcomes. So, an example of that would be, uh, in, one project I'm working on now is with our building department. They need a land management system, and so I partnered with them to help them develop their requirements, develop the RFP, understand what we would like to see from an IT perspective in terms of where it's hosted, whether it's cloud or on-premise, uh, the security requirements, but really once that foundation is in place, letting them assess the functionality of the system and then help negotiate the deal so that we get the best long-term value for the city.
BK: That's a really good example. So, what are some of the key outcomes that you look to achieve?
GO: So, for my first year, if you look on two dimensions, uh, strategy dimension versus operational. The first year has been, uh, very operational, especially when looking at the IT department itself. The city had not made investments in infrastructure, so there was quite a lot of work to do in terms of upgrading our network, upgrading the servers and storage and then, uh, aligning better processes and methods. You know, there wasn't a strong a change management process in place. Uh, there wasn't a strong project management mentality in place. I had a great, great team though. So, the team that we had in place was, uh, very focused and very dedicated and very capable. Uh, we also were short staffed, so I was able to, uh, secure approval to get an additional headcount added, and I recruited and found another great team member for that function.
BK: Wonderful. So, how do you want to improve the City of Worthington in the next three years?
GO: So, and that's where the strategy really comes into place. And uh, you know, before I was hired, we spent a good deal of time talking about what that strategy might be. So, uh, as I've thought about it, it's a, I look at it through the lens of, what challenges does the city face? Uh, and, if you look at kind of the broad spectrum, uh, the city derives a lot of its funding from income tax revenue. So, how does the changing nature of the workforce and, uh, work from home aspects and things of that nature change the structure of our income tax revenue? And what can we do to help facilitate that change in a way that might be more favorable to retaining some of those, uh, income, uh, tax revenues ?
Or how might we put in enabling technologies that help staff or help community members continue to work in the city, yet have better connectivity so that they can be more productive in their work lives? So, when a project that we're working on is, how do we use a fiber as a technology to help drive, uh, business retention, uh, better productivity for either home-based or office-based employees and, you know, how do we, uh, really help drive some of the other technologies such as 5G that can benefit the city and community members?
BK: It sounds like you have a lot of clarity on the direction you want to go with the City of Worthington. But what's keeping you up at night? What, uh, what concerns you?
GO: Well, I think we've put a lot of time into, uh, what the vision is so that, you know, the next steps are how to turn that vision into actionable plans and, and once we have plans and have tested those plans and, and find out whether they really make sense for our city, uh, the next step would be, you know, how do you implement those actions and get the outcomes that you're expecting?
BK: Mhm. That’s good. So, professionally, what makes you the most happy?
GO: You know, I think, for me…you know, one big motivator for me, making the change to the city, uh, coming from the for-profit space, uh, was very motivated by mission and, uh, service. So, uh, the city of Worthington, uh, you know, like Dublin, I live in Dublin, so there's lots of great communities in Central Ohio, but it was an opportunity to be part of a team and, and help, uh, help them realize their goals around, uh, fulfilling service to the community, providing top quality services and really delivering upon that broader mission of the city.
BK: So, folks, this is a Gene Oliver. I'm Bryan Kaiser. Please go visit the City of Worthington. It's a beautiful place, and to learn more about us, please visit comspark.tech, and have a great day.
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