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How IT is Transforming the City

By Behzad Zamanian, CIO, City of Huntington Beach

Behzad Zamanian, CIO, City of Huntington Beach

What’s the chief focus CIO’s should concentrate on?

The single most important role of a CIO is becoming the strategic business partner with other business units. Being a business partner lets you align your IT mission with the organization’s mission and vision and that should ultimately be the goal of every CIO. Some refer to it as “business alignment.” In my opinion, building partnerships with the departments is the key to ITs’ success. If I’m able to accomplish what other departments want then that automatically aligns my goals with business.

What are the 2017 initiatives and challenges?

One thing we are seeing is cybersecurity becoming the main priority for us and government agencies. The last thing any CIO wants to see is our city becoming a victim of a cyber-attack, so security is definitely one of the major concerns. Local agencies seem to have moved on from consolidation to cyber security as the top priority, but state’s priorities seem to still be the consolidation. Perhaps local agencies were able to consolidate quickly and move on to the next priority, where states are still challenges with multiple agencies and distributed environment. Enabling field workers to use mobile devices and providing more citizens online engagement systems is one of our priorities, I see that as a stepping stone for connecting and the Internet of Things (IoT). In a very near future everything will be connected, city’s assets, pipelines, water meters, cars, roads, and applications. We will be able to monitor and manage everything remotely, so we have to prepare for that. In the meantime, richer mobile enabled applications would be the focus to enhance citizen’s access and increasing field work productivity.

“Cybersecurity becoming the main priority for us and government agencies”

What do you think of the cloud?

A lot of people think of cloud as an IT strategy and providers want you to think that way, but I see cloud as another tool and more flexible alternative to provide storage services in support of applications. There are multiple factors to consider when looking at cloud option. Cost, investment in your datacenter, nature of the application, and many other criteria must be examined before making a decision. Is this an enterprise application, does it require remote access, are there a lot of integration points, are there compliance and regulations, etc. Enterprise applications such as ERP systems have proven to be more successful when installed on-premises, on the other hand, simple applications that require a lot of interaction with customers/constituents and mobility can be a good fit for the cloud. There are also cyber security related issues and compliance that might impact the decision to select cloud over on-premises solutions.

Are there any hiring challenges, specifically, from millennials?

Millennials have all the information and tools they need to be able to just move on to the next company with a similar position, if they don’t like it which could result in you losing a really good employee. My approach to addressing hiring challenges and budgetary limitation has been “smart sourcing.” Outsourcing, use of contract positions, part timer, or interns for what makes sense such as repetitive simpler tasks is the only way for IT to address resource issues. That is the only way to manage technology with extremely limited resources with the ability to scale up and grow.

What kind of messaging is coming down from the CM/Key Executives about their partnership with IT? What are they expecting you to look at?

Just like any other progressive organization, we would like to see better customer service, better internal and external communication, a more robust IT governance, automation, technology to make people and systems more efficient and productive; and most importantly, technology to provide better service to our citizens, visitors, and constituencies.

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