Bill Greeves is Chief Information Officer of Wake County, N. C., which includes the capital city of Raleigh and parts of the high-tech Research Triangle. The county includes almost a million people in an area of around 850 square miles. His role as CIO is externally focused, and he spends much of his time working with government departments and county residents to drive innovation and change.
What new IT demands are you getting from your clients?
There’s so much high-tech stuff going on here that we have to be pushing and pushing to stay ahead of citizen expectations. The area has a high technology literacy rate, both with the employees and the population. That drives us to be innovative.
The hottest topics we are working through right now are mobility, like providing more direct services that are easily accessible through mobile devices and tablets. We’re BYOD-friendly. Externally, it means more direct apps for basic common citizen services.
Another area is transparency in government and providing more access to information and process, such as stronger outreach. We’ve got the traditional channels. We redesigned the county website in the fall, winning all kinds of awards. Two months ago, we received a grade of A from the Sunshine Review, the only county in North Carolina to do so.
We’re also doing stronger outreach via social media – we’ve gone beyond having a Facebook page and Twitter to integrating the latest tools, such as Vine, Pinterest, and Instagram. It’s still evolving for us – we’re moving into that space not just internally but finding more ways to engage citizens through social media.
We’re also opening up our data through a data portal, offering open data for a lot of datasets, close to three dozen. Just last month, we participated in the NC Data Jam, which was the kickoff to a larger program, DataPalooza. What’s unique about North Carolina is that it was regional. We were the county, but several cities in our county and a couple of surrounding towns opened up their datasets. We got together with development companies and asked “What apps would you like to build?” and got a list of priorities. We’ll get back together in September to see the results of these buildouts.
What good ways have you found to simplify how you provide services?
Automating as much as we can is the best answer and the simplest answer. By providing good tools and information, we can help people help themselves, on their own time and on their own schedule, and not have to come downtown, because downtown Raleigh can be difficult to park in. They can pay taxes online, check out library books, and we’re streaming our board meetings on the website and mobile devices. We consider our mission to use what’s available through technology to make everyone’s life easier, whether they’re a client in the county regional partnership or a citizen who needs to get a little business done so they can go on with their lives. Technology is a great way to do that.
What about simplifying the business processes themselves?
What we have seen in the last couple years is that we are transforming the way this department operates. Now that we’ve got stuff like the cloud, and consumerization of IT, everything is much easier for people to get, in terms of hardware and software. It used to be that IT was the gatekeeper of all this stuff, and if you wanted anything, you had to come through us. We did our best to make that a painless process, but you don’t have to do that anymore. We get a lot done with host systems and software to get around long-standing processes. We’re changing our culture to be less of a utility provider and more of a business partner.
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