Monday, March 27, 2017

Supersizing security

Back in 2012, the state’s cybersecurity budget was a measly $6,000 -- despite the rapid rise of attacks and vulnerabilities in the digital space.

Colorado’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Debbi Blyth saw a problem when she was first hired to the state in 2014. Funding had been increased, but it still wasn’t anywhere close to meeting budgetary goals.

Blyth knew she needed more funding to protect state assets. Furthermore, she also knew legislators needed more information if she expected them to support cybersecurity.

Read how CISO Debbi Blyth connected the dots for stakeholders to secure a smarter investment and raise the bar (in a supersized way!) for Colorado cybersecurity.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Our year in review: FY16 OIT Annual Report

We are excited to announce that our FY16 Annual Report has been published! This public report provides information about many of our biggest initiatives and accomplishments -- financially, operationally, and organizationally -- in fiscal year 2016.

These achievements are only possible with the incredible dedication and commitment that our OIT employees bring every day to our customers. Please read the report and learn how OIT is working to enrich the citizen experience at every digital touchpoint.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

David McCurdy: Tech trends for 2017

Our Chief Technology Officer David McCurdy was recently interviewed by Deloitte for Tech Trends 2017: The Kinetic Enterprise.

He talks about his take on technology today, including technical debt as an asset and rethinking how the state approaches service delivery. Read the entire article here (David's part starts on page 10) and learn his bottom line.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

SOS: How can public data create business insights?

How can public data create insights for business decision-makers? That’s what Secretary of State Wayne Williams hopes the Colorado business community can help answer on his newly launched online platform to brainstorm ideas.

"We believe public data is an asset and that it ought to be more easily accessible and usable for the people of Colorado, especially business decision-makers," said Secretary Williams.

“But we need your help. We’re looking for your ideas on how public data can create business insights. That includes everyone from the owner of a small business to a manager or CEO of a large corporation. How can public data help you?”

Submitters can pose a question or offer a problem they face in their business. Others can then vote in support of or comment to further develop or enhance an idea. You don’t need to have the answer or be able to implement a solution -- they’re just looking for your ideas.

The Secretary of State’s office has run the Business Intelligence Center program since 2013. Working with partners across the state, including the Governor’s Office of Information Technology, they seek to promote a healthy business environment statewide by making business-relevant data accessible and partnering with the private sector to drive innovation through the use of public data to solve business challenges.

The program pursues this mission in two key ways. First, it assists state agencies in publishing public data to the state’s open data platform, the Colorado Information Marketplace at Second, it runs the Go Code Colorado app challenge, where teams of software developers and entrepreneurs use public data to solve business challenges.

The fourth Go Code Colorado challenge kicked off this year on Feb. 1. Find out more information at

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I’m a buzzword...

...And I couldn't be happier about it. Buzzwords are how movements begin. And the state knows we need to move.. There’s a problem we need to tackle, and that is my job.

Digital transformation officer.

It’s definitely a hot title right now, but what does it really mean? I can’t tell you what it means to all of the other folks throwing out similar buzzword titles (my fellow transformation-innovation-inspiration-thought-ambassadors), but I can share my experience and goals. And what I am doing at the State of Colorado.

We Are Not Unique Snowflakes

All these titles are really geared toward a challenge that exists in many organizations. This challenge is the growing need for traditional, public-utility-type IT shops to morph into academic-like, consulting shops looking over the horizon, identifying and proliferating new technologies and figuring out how to adopt an increasingly digitized workforce that has undermined the traditional gravity centers of technology knowledge and experience.

In gov today, good ideas die everyday before they get socialized. IT shops, more comfortable in traditional legacy systems, stick their heads in the sand and act as if third party, web-based productivity apps don’t exist or aren’t their responsibility and fail to respond or adequately research alternatives to tools already in-hand, or -- worse yet -- dismiss new ideas behind poorly crafted and indefensible security posturing.

Innovation + Tools CRUSH Bureaucratic Inertia

Anyone can take an existing bad process and make it a bad cloud-based process. The challenge is to engage, understand, lead and assist to make processes that are more user-friendly and bring that to the external-facing and internal processes of government. We need to break the cycle of building apps based on horsepower, failing to take the features into account that actually make a car worth driving -- driveability, color, feel, likeability, etc. Art is the capitalist driver as to why you buy and do many of the things you do… and it should play a role at work. User experience is something government has overlooked for far too long.

There are a lot of factors working against innovation in government. Leaders resist change from legacy systems out of fear of becoming obsolete. Job rotation and networking -- something not traditionally embedded in government organization culture -- is essential. And of course, innovation is easy to preach if you don’t actually have to make it happen.

The key is more a communications issue than a technology one. It involves training senior leaders, illuminating that everyone has a role to play in innovation, and capitalizing on the fact that most innovation is spurred by wanting to break things that need breaking.

The Ground Has Shifted: Users Are Tech Savvy

In this effort, one singular truth surfaced…innovation is driven not by technology, but by people who care about what they do and are searching for ways to do it better. The explosion of user-available technology, combined with a growing population of technically-savvy users, has presented a new era for IT shops to provide more solutions and manage this digital Wild Wild West. IT needs to lead, assist and become intimate with the people and challenges.

IT Has Expanded

Over the past several years I have been lucky enough to gather smiles and scars on the bleeding edge of government culture change as the Director of Google Operations for the State of Colorado. We took a collaboration-loving platform with 78 applications traditionally not available to program staff and unleashed it on the bureaucracy of government. Starting from a myopic focus on email consolidation of our 30 thousand users, today we continue to exponentially expand apps to include email and calendar, for sure, but also 13.5 million docs in drive, 715 sites, and an ever-growing number of applications moving from legacy systems to find a new, cloud home in Google Cloud Platform.

All that effort being done, the sad truth is that most of it was still done in a silo, on a Google Team, largely unconnected and uncoordinated with other services we as an office offer. Our business analysts, program managers and solution engineers continued to operate under decision-making protocols largely dictated by familiarity with systems closest to them or to fill license obligations, not necessarily based on the right tool for the task. In this new role, our aim is to bridge this knowledge void.

So….What To Do?

Well, the first step was recognizing the problem and committing to do something about it. Ergo, Digital Transformation Officer. Second is to generate a system to make change.

In the near term, we have two main goals:
  1. Accelerate innovation
  2. Focus on user experience
Awesome. More buzzwords. What do they mean?

To accelerate innovation, we will aggressively highlight and promote innovation efforts, train staff on new technologies, create an environment where teams learn through hands-on lessons, and establish a bimodal partnership with emerging program-side leaders. Together we will guide the trajectory of technology efforts for improving citizen touch points while aligning with our customers’ business strategies.

Additionally, our focus on user experience has been an afterthought in state technology, where emphasis on platform functionality outweighed customer desired outcomes. This results in overly complex interactions with state data systems, reducing data utility and access. This must stop. Given increasing user demand for streamlined, personalized experience via mobile devices, online and text-based interactions, user experience is now the starting point in ensuring data entered and returned in a system is good. It’s like a long-term relationship. You have to make the first date count. It’s that good first impression that grows into love with more information, adjustments, and understanding. To be successful in accommodating user experience, we must develop interfaces that people like -- or at least don't hate -- and then build more complex tools and relationships as time goes on.

To focus on user experience, we are going to assess official Colorado and semi-official websites and recommend improvement based on user experience, visibility and utility. We will also create user experience standards, policies and practices.

In short, we’re going to break stuff that needs breaking and build stuff that needs building. As a gov-lifer myself there is no where I would rather be and nothing else I’d rather be doing. I hope you want to pitch in, too! Can’t change it if we aren’t part of it, right? Might even have some fun along the way :)

Brandon Williams
Digital Transformation Officer, State of Colorado
On Twitter at @bwwilliams

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Figs, mushrooms, maybe meatballs. Go Code Colorado 2017!


It’s time for Go Code Colorado, one of our favorite parts of the year. It’s a Colorado competition that invites developers and entrepreneurs to use public data to build apps that create business intelligence. It’s so, so, so much more than a hackathon. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, learn something new, and help build a stronger Colorado.

Each year, the Go Code team announces the challenge statement at their killer kick-off party. This year, it’s at Galvanize Golden Triangle on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 6 p.m. -- and we’re promised figs, mushrooms...and maybe meatballs. Oh yeah, and Great Divide beers! How could you miss it? Register for the kick-off event right now and start building your team.

Go Code Colorado hinges on the open data posted on the Colorado Information Marketplace at At the end of the competition the three winning teams receive $25,000 to keep their app and business idea going. Learn more here and let the games begin!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

MacGyver Moment #1: Data sharing for the rest of us

We’ve got a new series for the #StateofCO IT blog to highlight state employees innovating in government—MacGyver Moments!

Our first MacGyver Moment comes from one of the state’s developers Greg Ostravich. Check out his video interview with Digital Transformation Officer Brandon Williams, and read what he says below.

If you've been around technology for a while then you probably remember Microsoft Access Database—a solution that was popular in the 90s enabling customers to easily share data.

At the State of Colorado we have the “big three” of solutions: SalesForce, Perceptive, and Google. These tools are great for large scale projects, but what do we do if we want a solution for a smaller dataset? Or if we want something that doesn't require the licensing of SalesForce or Perceptive? What if we want something that doesn't require in-house developers to come up with a Java solution that runs in the Google App Engine using a cloud-based database?

Well, there is a niche solution that does work for these types of scenarios. Enter Google Sheets.

There are two ways to do this:

  1. The newer option is using Google App Maker, a tool that is still bubbling up. It is a low code way of extending features within Google Apps.
  2. The other option, that I used, is to bind an HTML form and Google App Script to a Google Sheet to create a way for users to search content without having a heavy developer-dependent solution. The solution lives in the cloud, doesn't require any costs for deployment, and allows "read-only" sharing of content for a customizable set of users.
Without going into too much detail, here’s what I did: |

Took a Google Sheet and under the "Tools" menu clicked on the "Script Editor".

From the Script Editor, I inserted a Google App Script ( and an HTML file.

These two files, which are bound to the Google Sheet, work in conjunction with each other to allow the user to access a traditional HTML form where they type in their search criteria and submit the form. That action runs Google Apps Scripts that walk through the sheet searching for matching data, and then dynamically generates and populates the results in a div that lives on the HTML file that's bound to the sheet. Because it's just HTML, the Google Sheet can even contain HTML (bulleted lists in one example I worked on) and they will render correctly.

I’ve put together this example to show you how it works here.

Thank you Greg for an awesome example of building a technology solution on a shoestring budget, and without an over complicated architecture. What do you guys think?