Transcript

Michael:         

(00:03) Hello welcome to episode number 36 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman and I am here with my co-host. The wonderful, extroverted, yet simultaneously introverted – actually that’s not true extroverted, Vala Afshar. Vala.

Vala:   

(00:27) Hi Michael how are you, I’m doing great.

Michael:         

(00:29) and today we have a special guest.

Vala:   

(00:32) Superb guest.

Michael:         

(00:36) Kristin Russell, who is the CIO of the state of Colorado. Hi Kristin.

Kristin:

(00:41) Hello It’s great to be here.

Michael:         

(00:43) Great, thank you so much for joining us.

Kristin:

(00:45)Thank you.

Michael:         

(00:47) So Vala, this week, you and I were both hanging out in San Francisco and it’s amazing you know, this is episode number 36 and we see each other in different places and we’re still talking to oneanother.

Vala:   

(00:58) I’m starting to think you’re following me.

Kristin:

(01:07)You guys can do that. leave me out of it.

Vala:   

(01:12) Kristin, we were at Dreamforce, which I know you were planning to attend and I think it was over 130,000 people in San Francisco at the Salesforce.com conference and just an amazing conference and lots of thought leadership. And Michael, you were saying you met some pretty spectacular companies including start-ups.

Michael:         

(01:37) Yeah you know, I visited with a whole bunch of different start-ups and three really caught my attention. Now it’s impossible to say three out of so many are the best but these guys caught my attention. And before I say who they are, let me give the appropriate disclosure. There are no disclosures   because they had no financial relationship here what so ever. These were three start-ups that I thought were pretty interesting. They had an interesting product that had excitement and passion and energy behind it and the vision was clear. I love those traits

(02:13) So the three start-ups are Invoca @Invoca. And Invoca has a very simple idea, they take inbound calls and they make them transparent and visible and clickable just like web links, so I thought that was pretty neat.

(02:34) The second one is Addvocate and Addvocate has a platform to help employees get the word out for their company on social media and it’s pretty neat.

(02:51) And then the third one is Introhive, which has a platform for social selling to map connections amongst employees to help amplify the relationships during the selling process. So I just had to bring forth these three great start-up companies, because we’re big advocates of innovation here.

Vala:   

(03:18) So Kristin, so would you mind sharing with us and our audience a little bit about your background and your role as the Secretary of technology and the Chief Information Officer for the State of Colorado.

Kristin:

(03:30) Yeah great. So thank you, hi everyone. I’m the secretary of technology and CIO for the State of Colorado. I was appointed in February in 2011 by Governor Hickenlooper had no, zero interest of going into government, just for the record okay. And there’s a story behind that, and we can get into it or not.

Vala:   

(03:54) didn’t he send you a poem?

Kristin:

(03:56) Yes, I should grab it, it’s right on the back of my desk. Yeah, I had no interest in going into government. I was actually before going into this job I was at Oracle and I had Oracle’s data centers and computing operations worldwide. So all of the infrastructure around the company internally and then the infrastructure that supported Oracle’s cloud computing environment at the time, they were our demands (Oracle’s space? 04:27).

(04:28)And I was going about my business very happily at Oracle I will note you, and I got a call from Governor Hickenlooper’stransition’s team and a colleague of mine who is a CIO in the States – not in the States government

Michael:         

(00:03) Hello welcome to episode number 36 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman and I am here with my co-host. The wonderful, extroverted, yet simultaneously introverted – actually that’s not true extroverted, Vala Afshar. Vala.

Vala:   

(00:27) Hi Michael how are you, I’m doing great.

Michael:         

(00:29) and today we have a special guest.

Vala:   

(00:32) Superb guest.

Michael:         

(00:36) Kristin Russell, who is the CIO of the state of Colorado. Hi Kristin.

Kristin:

(00:41) Hello It’s great to be here.

Michael:         

(00:43) Great, thank you so much for joining us.

Kristin:

(00:45)Thank you.

Michael:         

(00:47) So Vala, this week, you and I were both hanging out in San Francisco and it’s amazing you know, this is episode number 36 and we see each other in different places and we’re still talking to oneanother.

Vala:   

(00:58) I’m starting to think you’re following me.

Kristin:

(01:07)You guys can do that. leave me out of it.

Vala:   

(01:12) Kristin, we were at Dreamforce, which I know you were planning to attend and I think it was over 130,000 people in San Francisco at the Salesforce.com conference and just an amazing conference and lots of thought leadership. And Michael, you were saying you met some pretty spectacular companies including start-ups.

Michael:         

(01:37) Yeah you know, I visited with a whole bunch of different start-ups and three really caught my attention. Now it’s impossible to say three out of so many are the best but these guys caught my attention. And before I say who they are, let me give the appropriate disclosure. There are no disclosures   because they had no financial relationship here what so ever. These were three start-ups that I thought were pretty interesting. They had an interesting product that had excitement and passion and energy behind it and the vision was clear. I love those traits

(02:13) So the three start-ups are Invoca @Invoca. And Invoca has a very simple idea, they take inbound calls and they make them transparent and visible and clickable just like web links, so I thought that was pretty neat.

(02:34) The second one is Addvocate and Addvocate has a platform to help employees get the word out for their company on social media and it’s pretty neat.

(02:51) And then the third one is Introhive, which has a platform for social selling to map connections amongst employees to help amplify the relationships during the selling process. So I just had to bring forth these three great start-up companies, because we’re big advocates of innovation here.

Vala:   

(03:18) So Kristin, so would you mind sharing with us and our audience a little bit about your background and your role as the Secretary of technology and the Chief Information Officer for the State of Colorado.

Kristin:

(03:30) Yeah great. So thank you, hi everyone. I’m the secretary of technology and CIO for the State of Colorado. I was appointed in February in 2011 by Governor Hickenlooper had no, zero interest of going into government, just for the record okay. And there’s a story behind that, and we can get into it or not.

Vala:   

(03:54) didn’t he send you a poem?

Kristin:

(03:56) Yes, I should grab it, it’s right on the back of my desk. Yeah, I had no interest in going into government. I was actually before going into this job I was at Oracle and I had Oracle’s data centers and computing operations worldwide. So all of the infrastructure around the company internally and then the infrastructure that supported Oracle’s cloud computing environment at the time, they were our demands (Oracle’s space? 04:27).

(04:28)And I was going about my business very happily at Oracle I will note you, and I got a call from Governor Hickenlooper’stransition’s team and a colleague of mine who is a CIO in the States – not in the States government but in the Colorado tech industry, called me and I was coming back from an international flight from Tokyo, and I’m a little bit sleep deprived. And he said, Kristin we have this incredible opportunity.

(04:58)For the first time in the State of Colorado, we’ve actually combined the CIO role being responsible for all of the information systems across State government, combined with the secretary of technology, which is the head for IT economic development across the State, attracting new tech companies and tech workers. And the problem is can’t really find the right person with the right skills for that. So I immediately kind of go through my mental role of, have you called this person, what about this person, and he said, I don’t think you know what I’m asking you. I want to know if you would do this job.

(05:39)And I was like, government? I don’t do government. I don’t know anything about government. He went, Kristin, wait. You will forever be known as Madam Secretary and you’ll be on the governor’s cabinet. And I said, I don’t know what a cabinet is other than it’s something in my house, and I have no interest in being a secretary ever, like that’s not where my careers going.

(06:06)So anyways I ended up thinking well you know, it’s kind of an interesting story for my two young girls. I’ll just go talk and meet the governor, and my husband had said, we’re not doing this. This doesn’t fit into our financial plan as a family, and I said, no, no, no we’re not going to do it. I’ll just talk to and meet the governor and then I’ll just shut him down. So I sat down with the governor and the lieutenant governor and his chief of staff, Roxanne White and his first question was, ‘why do you want this job?’ and of course I was like, yeah, why of I take this job, that’s the question I pose back to you governor, why would I take this job.

(06:48)And he leaned across his desk and pulled out a book of poetry. A collection of poems by (GarathenKeeler? 06:56), and he goes to read me this poem by Marge Piercy called. To Be of Use, and I’ll just say to you guys online because you’re my friends now, it was a long poem and it was a little awkward I’ll just say. And the last line of the poem reads, “The pitcher cries for water to carry and a person for work that is real.”

(07:24) And it just struck me that I was at this point in time in my life where I had taken jobs because of two reasons because one, I thought like I could learn something and the second because I could add value. And clearly this was one of those situations where I said you know I think I’m supposed to do this. So I got home that night and my husband welcomed me at the door and said, so you shut him down because that was our plane. You shut him down, and I was like, yeah, well not exactly. That’s not exactly what happened. He said, how could you do this and I said, he read me a poem! What am I supposed to do? So that’s the story.

Vala:   

(09:09) That’s a wonderful story, thank you for sharing.

Michael:         

(08:13) There cannot be many CIO’s that have been hired by the governor who read them a poem.

Vala:   

(08:20) Absolutely.

Michael:         

(08:22) So tell us now, you have in a sense two sets of overlapping interests. One is running the IT infrastructure of the State and the second relates to innovation in the State, and both of those are kind of interests is that correct?

Kristin:

(08:38) Yeah I think that’s what really attracted me to the role because I’ had been in IT for a time. Prior to Oracle I was with Sun Mircrosystems for many many years and Colorado is one of the few states that has legislation that backs the consolidation of IT.

(09:01)A lot of states has separate IT organizations across every single executive branch, and in Colorado in 2008, passed a legislation that was we were going to consolidate IT across entire agencies. So my internal customers are 22 agencies across the state from department of agriculture to department of revenue to department of transportation and how do you help this organization which is a bit like a startup learn and leverage technology solutions so that government can be more affective, more efficient and more elegant in serving the citizens in Colorado.

And then the other hat that I wear is the Secretary of technology, I’m responsible for IT economic development structures in the state, so how do we actually help, grow Colorado’s technology landscape. How do we show as Colorado as being one of the most innovative state’s in the nation. How do we grow tech workers to the state. And that’s really fascinating because there is the con or convergence between the CIO role and how the CIO really add to economic development and  for the community.

Vala:   

(10:19) I believe you chaired the Colorado board of advisors, can you talk a little bit about that?

Kristin:

(10:24) Yeah, so Governor Hickenlooper is an incredible leader and for any of you who don’t know his background, he was a geologist that came to Colorado and got laid off, and he and a bunch of his friends decided to start a craft brewing company. And it ended up growing to be the fastest-growing and the most successful craft brewing in the entire nation. So he is definitely an entrepreneur at heart and his idea of calling the Colorado information network, was to really help identify Colorado as the most innovative state.

(11:04)And to do that we need to leverage Colorado’s assets. We have over 24 Federal laboratories, we have an incredible University system and how do we connect that this government and the business community to create the right ecosystem to breed and grow and develop innovation across the state.

(11:26)You know, I think it’s incredible what is happening in Colorado. I’ve been here since I was seven and just a couple of weeks ago, a study came out that said of the top 10 entrepreneurial communities in the nation, and Colorado had 40%. So four of the top 10 were in Colorado. We have a start-up every 72 hours in Colorado and the third highest concentration of software engineering talent in the nation.

(11:57)So it has incredibly exciting opportunities for Colorado to really take hold of this of what is happening in Colorado right now.

Michael:         

(12:06) So you as the CIO it sounds like your significant interest is growing this innovation base if you will in the state.

Kristin:

(12:17) Yeah absolutely, and for me once exciting about spending all of my background in private sector and now going out to a public sector, is that public sector is now the new emerging market in my perspective because it allows us to really leapfrog now where technology has been over the last 10 years, and take advantage of enterprise solutions, that quite frankly the private sector has been struggling and going through all of the iterations to really perfect. And we get to come in and actually leverage those things right now, which can be incredibly amplifying.

(12:56)So, you know when I look at innovation in government, some people think that that’s anti-esthetical to think about government and innovation. But the reality is because there is such a greenfield of opportunity for us to be able to leverage technology to innovate, it is an incredibly exciting place to be.

Vala:   

(13:17) So what are some of the challenges that you face delivering you know technology value to your internal stakeholders and then to the citizens of Colorado?

Kristin:

(13:28)Well I understand we only have an hour, is that accurate? Okay.

Vala:   

(13:39) I need you to read your inspirational poem to.

Kristin:

(13:43) Exactly, so I think there’s lots of challenges in government and I mean it’s hard and you know and if there’s anything kind of worth doing is hard work I guess I would say. But I think three things in particular and you know one is just changing the mindset and the aspect of change management in government takes on a whole new aspect of the difficulty of that. Last year, about a year ago at the time, we launched Google apps for government across the state.

(14:16)So on 10/08, we light switched and 30,000 state employees started using Google.gov and this was coming from an environment where they had 15 separate email systems – seriously. Like I’m not kidding you and I couldn’t figure it out, people were like flipping out their cards in internal meetings and it was like why are you giving me your card – you couldn’t find people!

(14:41)We had no chat, we had no hangouts we had no engagement collaboration and you know, one day we switched the entire state over. And you know, this is probably my third or fourth email system migration throughout my career. So I was like, hey no big deal, just email people right. Don’t worry. And you would have thought I went into their homes and took their children in the middle of the night – I mean it was crazy. It was very difficult and I think it taught me a lot about change management in general and our rules as CIO’s are more about not providing technology tools, but about really helping employees become more productive, by leaving technology that is out there.

(15:29)So that’s the first thing, just change management. It’s no different really for any CIO, but I feel like in government it is a little bit more challenging. My workforce is a little bit harder because there is a good study out there that says, 30% of IT workers in public sector will be eligible for retirement in the next two years. And that is a significant impact to the workforce, and to be honest with you we also have a demographic challenge that a lot of our workers are trained in older technologies that are not used as much. I keep saying that I’m going to get T-shirts that say, Cobalt’s cool really.

Michael:         

(16:10) Fortran!

Kristin:

 (16:11)Fortran! So but the reality is that it’s a challenge and of course I fight for talent just like the private sector does, but I pay them a lot less so that is a big challenge for me, and then just the sustainability of how people look at technology from a government standpoint. We have just now passing a bill to modernize our ERP system that runs $70 billion in financial transactions a year and its 23 years old.

(16:48)So you know, government gets an influx of money they build the ginormous complex system, and then it just gets old. And so, I’m really trying to change this concept that that’s not the way that we should be managing these critical systems that provides services to citizens.

Michael:         

(17:00) How do you implement a large system in the government and not have cost overruns, and not have the kind of meltdowns in this state. I’m in Massachusetts and there has been severe IT failures, and I was actually testifying at hearings a couple of weeks ago on this subject as an expert in IT failures. What advice can you offer to folks in this state to how to do it better, or how to do it better in your own state?

Kristin:

(17:45) Yet I mean it’s a huge problem I think across IT in general, but certainly I think obviously you can just look at the headlines and you know since October 1 to see that government really struggles in this area. And I think partly it’s that we do have a political environment that makes it very difficult for organizations, like state governments, or the federal government’s or local entities to move rapidly.

(18:20)And some of these projects you know it’s just astounding to me that millions and hundreds of dollars to do something that in my opinion should not cost that amount. And the time that it takes to implement is just elongated to such an extent, that literally they are 3 to 5 year projects. I mean can you imagine how much technology has changed within the last 3 to 5 years, and so I think that’s a big problem.

(18:49)You know, government is not well versed, educated, or trained or experienced in enterprise IT. You know the reality is the way that government grew up in was very siloed and was very program based. So one of the reasons why I think I was hired was because I knew how to run enterprise IT for one of the largest companies out there. And they need talent from the private sector to come in and help to say, this is the way you do these things.

(19:22)The other issue that we have is that there is a risk adverse culture in government, and because everything is so transparent and so publicly out there, I mean lots of IT projects fail right. I mean that’s not just in the public sector, it’s the private sector to. But private sectors are kind of able to you know contain that and it’s looked at as agile – you know, we change the name. We say we have this farce fail asset – no, that’s not a failure that is agile and that’s a new way that we develop this.

(19:52) We don’t get that lecture, because every time there is a failure, aides out there for God and country to look at, but there are some things that we should be doing differently. We should be very mindful about the limitations of technology, and understanding that building a system can do something like you know process is $70 billion of transaction and we think, well maybe it can wash my windows in the morning and yet, that’s a good idea, and we put it in there and we kind of don’t give it a chance.

(20:30)Governance is a huge issue and I’ve really been seeing the drama in Colorado of the importance of governance. But it’s possible and we took a very broken system – and in fact the other thing I would say is that the first thing that government does is that they have this – swap it out – get rid of the whole thing! You know, throw the baby out with the bathwater, and I think the ribbon was placed and that the government is really catastrophic, so we can look at and figure out how to take systems and actually evolve them over time, versus this revolutionary approach to system implementation.

(21:08) I think that’ll help because we took our Colorado benefits management system, which basically does the most eligibility across the most critical services. Medicaid’s, food stamps, welfare. And it was a disaster. It was underfunded and we had federal fines against us because the system wasn’t working, and they went to the implementation, and we got a fail back – I mean it’s just a horror story.

(21:38) And so when I came in – and I was like, how are you going to fix that CMCS system and I was like what was it called C.M.S.C? And so, my CTO came in and we went out to the end-user and we sat down with them and said, what does this system look like from your advantage point. We put together a governance structure with the agencies that were most impacted by this system. We put together an 18 month very diligent and very accountable plan, and every quarter we had to go in front of the joint budget committee to say, this is what we’ve done, this is what’s ahead and that accountability has to be there on these big system limitations.

Vala:   

(22:19)You have experience running global IT at at Oracle, and I know you were scheduled to speak at the dream force salesforce event, so a pro cloud and pro SaaS CIO, what advice do you have to other big company CIOs, who are faced with multi-year innovation, roadmap and projects in terms of simplifying and bringing as you said agility into delivering IT value and business.

Kristin:

(22:57) Yeah, one of the first things that we did we actually documented very boldly a cloud first strategy, that our decision criteria was very clear. Is there commercially available off the shelf SaaS product, which is available to meet this such as the case like Google. And if there’s not, then how do we partner with a vendor community to actually build that, because one of the issues that we have in government is that there is not a lot of (unclear 23:24). It’s kind of a frustration for the vendor community is that they don’t think R & D into public sector solutions right.

(23:34) It’s keeping up this IT cartel that here, you know I can sell you a Medicaid system for the price tag of $50 million Michigan or Massachusetts, and then they go to the next state and sell the same and it is the fleecing of the American taxpayer, and we’ve got to stop doing that.

(23:53) So in this state and I’ve been very aggressive in saying that it’s (cogent) for a lot of reasons, for me, I moved from Capex, the balloon of Capex for me to be able to forecast out into (FX? 24:11)

(24:11) I get to build innovation in there, so I don’t have to ever be in a situation of a 23-year-old you know ERP system, and government doesn’t really have any business of being in tech. You know, that’s probably blasphemous and before you tweak that out just tell me so I can prepare myself. But you know, obviously that’s why cloud is such a huge amplifier for us. It doesn’t work for a lot of private companies, especially if you can have scale. But for government it is a sweet opportunity for us.

(24:49) We’ve brought in these consortiums that are merging around to try to get to the shared services aspect. And there was a (four states?)consortium being built for and employment insurer, so (four states?) Got together with all of these old ginormous ugly huge systems and we went and built another one huge ginormous ugly system that would have four states off of it. And that was the original idea, and I walked into the first meeting and I was like, we are not doing this. You know if you want Colorado to be lean, I’m going to take that money and I’m going to give it to the private sector to build a SaaS for unemployment insurers, not just for four states, but for 50. And if you don’t want to do it, then don’t do it, but that’s the only way we are going to lead.

Michael:         

(25:39) What you’re saying is the most sensible thing about state government IT that I have ever ever heard.

Kristin:

(25:51) Thank you, it’s hard though, it’s hard.

Vala:   

(25:54) So you’re a social CIO, your active on Twitter and in fact your appearance on our show, because one of your followers thought that we must be able to connect…

Michael:         

(26:10) JD Hulsten     

Kristin:

(26:12)Yeah, thank you JD

Vala:   

(26:14) So it’s clear to me and hopefully you can validate it and having a – as Marc Benioff says a beginners mindset is open, you’re interested, your collaborative. If CIOs are not willing to engage and collaborate, it’s hard to inspire change agents, no matter what size of the organisation. How do you leverage collaboration technology mindset culture to move the needle when it comes to these you know, this massive shift in terms of you know, what’s needed to improve technology in government.

Kristin:

(26:49) Yeah I think it’s huge and I were will say that’s possibly one of the advantages, that I think the public sector has over the private sector. You know because being in IT in the private sector, there’s a kind of cultural aspect about not wanting to share your dirty laundry – for a couple of reasons, you don’t want to share your dirty laundry anyways. But there is an IT aspect, a competitive advantage aspect to it even when things are going wrong. So I do feel there’s less collaboration in the IT community across companies in the private sector than there is in public sector.

(27:26) Public sector, we’re like, hey, we’re in this boat together and how do we help each other, so there’s tons of connection collaboration and sharing of best practices in the public sector.

(27:40) Some of my best ideas and innovations come from conversations that I have across the state, and quite honestly across country about what are the unique challenges that we have within government and then how we can attack that and approach that differently. So I think that’s one piece.

(28:01) But the other thing is I really think that there needs to be more of a leaning in so to speak on how we actually look at collaborating at different levels in the organisation, to really see out that innovation. And I think that IT in the historical sense tends to hit that an executive layer around collaboration, and around business relationship management and things like that.

(28:31)And we need to be much more aggressive about getting to that front-line user and collaborating with them, because I actually feel that’s where a lot of the epicenter of innovation actually exists. And that’s not different for the public sector, but I would actually extended to citizens, and what’s exciting to me about the kind of social, mobile environment is that we actually can figure out how to connect with citizens directly and get that input from them in hell government needs to change.

(29:04)We launched a the Colorado information marketplace, and instead of doing the kind of typical transparency government website where they show our budget, and nobody really cares. We actually opened up datasets, not reports, but full datasets and we said, you could come in – and there was a social aspect of it right. So you could raid a dataset, you could grab it, you could download it, you could build a mobile or web app out of it you can request a dataset.

(29:34)So since we launched that it has over 200% increase in the number of datasets that has been shared and we are using this in really creative ways. Because you know when I came into government I was like, how do we actually change government from the perception that it is only serving 47%, you know according to (Nick Rodney? 29:52) to 100%, because it’s really our government and its our society, and it’s our community.

(30:02) And I love the aspect of harnessing social and mobile to make government almost completely irrelevant in this sense that you don’t have to go into a building any more. You know, let’s just open it up and say, what you want from your government and what do you need, and how do we actually make that connection very intimate with the citizens of this nation.

Michael:         

(30:24) So Kristin, you’ve just received a vote to take from one of the people watching to take over the affordable…

Vala:   

(30:37) You might receive a poem from President Obama.

Kristin:

(30:53) You know we just have to do things differently and you know, that system that I mentioned before it was 9 million lines of code, and we had to figure out how to get this into a more modern system and it can be done, but it takes incredible discipline, incredible accountability, and incredible transparency. And for me, I don’t have a dog in the hunt. You know, I’m not running for governor. I’m not running for mayor and I don’t have you know, any political interest which makes it easy for me. Because it’s like I’ll fail and I’ll go out to the Denver Post and say, Hey, we didn’t do well enough. Or, here’s where we need help.

(31:36)And I’ll tell it like it is and I think that’s what’s hard sometimes in looking at these horrendously difficult problem that is affecting the feds right now.

Vala:   

(31:49) We have a question from Lauren Brousell and Lauren writes for CIO.com and her question to you on twitter is, what is Colorado doing to foster innovation, with a follow-up question of innovation labs        

Kristin:

(32:07) great question and Lauren it’s nice to interact with you, so in addition to coin, well we are actually understood what was growing Colorado’s economy, and we identified that there was certain industries, bioscience, aerospace, high-tech, telecommunication, that are really fuelling Colorado’s economy.

(32:32) is One great statistic for you guys out there is that I just read that for every one IT job there is an implication effect of five additional jobs that are created from every single IT job. And so this concept of really looking at innovation, which is typically around technology but looking at innovation to spur the economy is very very important to us and across the state.

(32:57)And so we actually went to our state legislation and looked for an advanced industry, that would be specific for these seven industries and they are early stage grants. So once like proof of concept, one is early stage, one is around exportation and they are specifically there to try to incent and really ignite the entrepreneurial community across Colorado. And we have I think – and the question was about really how do we do tech transfer.

(33:29)So all of our universities – and we’re a very collaborate state, we are very a purple state, so 30% Republican, 30% Democratic, and 30% independent. So what that does is it forces us to collaborate on a lot of different issues, and what the business community really wanted is for government – and this is what John Hickenlooper talks about all the time. Is that when our forefathers when they formed government, one of the major intentions was to increase the ability for business to start and to get out of its way. And that’s interesting right, because we don’t think of government that way.

(34:06) But one of the things that we can actually help, and so we helped to collect, convene, and collaborate across the University systems – I mentioned our research laboratories and bring them together to do tech transfer and to make sure that there is an ecosystem and community that can support that entrepreneur in Colorado. And it’s working, and we are growing and there is this energy right now and it’s interesting that millennial’s – Denver is the number one place in the nation for 25 to 35-year-olds to migrate to.

(34:44)And so the millennial’s are coming here, because Colorado presents opportunities we you can work, you can live, and you can play. And the reality is that it’s an incredible vibrant area for innovation. And so what government has to do is to be able to provide the right policies, very business friendly policies, and you know, access to talent which we just talked about. And then where we can help prop up businesses for them to be successful.

(35:17)We are doing something called the business intelligence centre, and it’s the first that I’m aware of across the nation to connect the secretary of state’s office that does business licenses and registration to the state, and helping to have a one stop shop. And we are doing this cool thing where we don’t know how to build that. I mean why does government try to think we have all the answers, doing like an (apathon? 35:41) to say what do you want out on this business intelligence center? What was the most helpful for you?

(35:48) I mentioned the Colorado information marketplace and like I said, government always go, I’m sure you interested in our textbook and blah, blah, blah. And the number-one dataset that bats hit on the Colorado information marketplace is black bear sightings.

(36:10) This is why governments have to collaborate, and this is why governments have to act, and this is why we need to use the innovation that is available in the market and then really help to amplify and enable that for the community. That’s our role.

Michael:         

(36:26) This is amazing. Kristin, I want to go back to something what you were saying earlier and I want to ask you on behalf of my wonderful state, Massachusetts – and maybe what we should do is make it more general, so we are not pointing the finger at the state of Massachusetts. Although honestly, there is some finger-pointing that is.

Vala:   

We've just lost all of Massachusetts viewers thank you very much.

Kristin:

(36:51) I’m competitive, so let’s go ahead.

Michael:         

(36:58) So for a state that has aged additional IT relationship with large system integrators, and I won’t name any names, and it seems that the pattern just repeats itself of large project, over budget, well let’s just move on and we’ll fund it more, and now we do the next one – how do you break that cycle?

Kristin:

(37:28) Yeah, so I’m passionate about that and I think several people have heard me talk about the concept of the IT cartel and that these system integrators are like darkening the skies, and like the monkeys of the Wizard of Oz right, and it’s not good. It’s not a good thing. And I think it’s challenging, because again it goes back to, do we have people in state government that actually knows how to run enterprise IT, know how to implement very large sales projects that are very complex.

(38:00)This is what I’m saying about we have to actually change the conversation, and it cannot be about that. I really want the vendor’s community to start looking at government. It’s a huge massive market right, and I know it’s a pain in the ass to do procurement with us. I get it. But if we don’t start building solutions for government, what ends up happening is we just customize and it’s not necessarily always the system and integrators fault, but that complicates it. Right, because you’re asking your state CIO, local CIO, or the federal CIO what they want. And they go back to the business, you know the situation of the health insurance exchange – what do you need. And they come up with these very very complex rules.

(38:45)And then they build that and they actually hard code the architecture into it, and we don’t have to do that anymore. There is bigger architecture out there now, so we have got to be in how we stop solving for the tale of the curve and start solving for 80% and build solutions for government. Because until we do that, we’re going to continue to waste money and projects are going to be overrun with millions and millions of dollars.

(39:13) I’ve always said is the problem with government isn’t that we don’t have enough money, but we have too much! And we have got to figure out how technology can really be the foundations for us to be more effective, efficient, and elegant.

Vala:   

(39:28) So speaking of innovation and Michael talked about three impressive start-ups at the beginning of the show. Do you work with start-ups, and how closely do you work with start-ups and what advice would you give to a start-up founder, CEO and owners who are looking to engage with the government to bring their innovation to market.

Kristin:

(39:48)Yeah, so I love start-ups and I’m a big fan, and what I try to do is actually create platforms upon which they can actually play. Because going back to Michael’s point about RP and the average RP process costs hundreds and thousands of dollars for people to compete. And so automatically by the nature of that we actually made it prohibitive for start-ups to engage directly with government.

(40:17) And so what I’ve been trying to do and in fact in 2012 my CTO and I wrote a paper called the citizen engagement platform as a service. You guys can Google it, and it’s all about how we stopped duplicating and replicating across agencies, across cities, states, and nationally to create a platform upon which start-ups can actually play. And if we do that effectively, it opens up the doors, and that’s what we have to do because that’s really where the next ideas are generating from.

(40:50) So from a CIO perspective, I’m very interested in that and we’ve tried to make it as simple as we possibly can, and from a procurement standpoint but there are some nuances and not nice words because we are online. There are some nuances for dealing with government procurement, but there is opportunity because we do have a kind of masters agreement with a company and then they can channel to a smaller start-up company. And so we have lots of those arrangements in Colorado where we will say, hey, we’re really interested in this new technology. Yet they don’t have a master service agreement with the state of Colorado, and so can you get on one of our master service agreements so that you can be a channel to the state of Colorado.

(41:38) And then the other thing that we’re doing which I think is kind of cool is you know it’s not just about how do start-ups scale, but how do these big companies like the Oracle’s and the IBM’s and GE’s and Coca-Cola, how did they start-up? How do we actually look at our nation and figure out how the big companies can be more nimble, agile and innovative. And then how do these smaller companies scale, so were doing this cool thing that’s like match.com for companies and it’s called E2E – Emerging To Enterprise.

(42:15) So it’s that, and how do we actually match that with big companies and small companies so that they can learn from each other, and we are helping to facilitate that I’m through the process of facilitating that we’re going to be able to get that innovative environment and entrepreneurial environment access to my team.

Michael:         

(42:33) So you are describing is not merely a philosophy but you have taken this approach as a strategy and implemented certain types of procurement processes and other processes that you’re describing.

Kristin:

(42:49) Yeah, absolutely and believe it or not I’m very technology agnostic in the state of Colorado and it’s actually what public sector has that I think that private sector companies don’t have as much of, is if something doesn’t work for us, we actually not only have the opportunity but in my mind, the responsibility to say you know what, we’ve got to go in a different direction and constantly look at that.

(43:19) And we do tech talks, because I’m so limited on training and development for my employees every single month or quarter we have tech talk, so we will bring a cool new start-up in and say, hey, tell us what you’re doing that is new and innovative and let’s create that dialogue with the public sector.

Vala:   

(43:37) You know Michael, I think I’m going to move to Denver! It’s not the type of conversation I was anticipating from the government CIO, you’re unbelievable. So what do you miss about the private sector, I mean it sounds like you’re having fun. You’re transforming, you’re delivering value and I wouldn’t be surprised if you wouldn’t receive a poem from the president. But what do you miss about running global IT at Oracle. I mean a fantastic company, massive responsibility. Is there something that you want to bring from the private sector to the public sector in terms of IT organisation?

Kristin:

(44:25) Well I mean other than the obvious I miss the money! I mean you guys can’t really see this, but this stake is from product and it’s not cheap. I mean I do think I miss sometimes the focus and the resources to be able to do the things that companies need to do. I actually love business and I love the competitive – and not just the competitive but the constant drive to innovate. You have to constantly push your business forward if you want it to succeed. I miss that.

(45:07) And I think those would probably be the top two that I would say, just the resources to be able to do things, and the financial resources to pay people – and not just me obviously, and talent and development, and you know you make a strategic direction and decision and you go and do that.

(45:32)The other thing I would say is that there is a stability to the private sector that doesn’t exist in the public sector. You know, when you have term limitations, or you know the governor has a four-year term, is really really hard to create a sustainable path, that especially from an IT standpoint we can say, this is what we’ve done, this is where we’re at and this is where we’re going because you know is limited.

Michael:         

(46:06) Well we could continue this discussion for a long time.

Vala:   

(46:10) That was the fastest 46 minutes, that was unbelievable. Thank you so much for being a guest, I mean again both of us write about the show and I’m going to have to figure out how to do this in less than 2000 words, so you were terrific.

Kristin:

(46:28) Well I just really appreciate because I’ll tell you what I’m obviously fairly new to Twitter and it was like one of those things and I told my husband, honey I’ve got 10 followers now, and you guys actually help me quite a bit. This has been fun you know, and I just I think we all have to look at government in a different way, and I know for the state of Colorado and my employees, they feel it, they live it every single day. They are public servants, and how do we as a nation, how do we as a country really figure out how to look at government differently and innovate and be that globally competitive nation that we once were.

(47:20)And I think back to the to the anniversary of JFK, and some of the things he inspired for us to do were impassable. You know, he said we are not going to go to the moon because it’s easy. We’re going to go to the moon because it’s hard. And if there is one thing I can leave to all of us, whether you are in public sector, in private sector or you’re a start-up or whatever, how do we actually look at creating a situation where we ride the tide of the US, so that all boats come with us and I think that is the thing that I think about.

Michael:         

(47:56) Well you’ve given us a lot to consider and your view of government IT is absolutely refreshing.

Kristin:

(48:07)Thank you.

Michael:         

(48:09) Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.

Vala:   

(48:11) You’re an extraordinary CIO, thank you very much.

Michael:         

(48:14) We wish you the very best.

Kristin:

(48:14)Thank you.

Michael:         

(48:16) You have been watching episode number 36 of CXOTalk. I am Michael Krigsman with my delightful and would be absolutely beautiful and delightful Vala Afshar. How is that?

Vala    

(48:34) Thank you Michael, great show, thank you.

Michael:         

(48:37) And we’ve been talking to this CIO of Colorado, Kristin Russell, Kristin thank you again for joining us and everybody thank you for watching, bye bye.

 

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