Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Your oxygen first: Breathe in, breathe out

If you have traveled on an airplane, you will be familiar with the safety briefing and the directive to "put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others." I keep this thought in my head when I consider how I interact with team members and when I think about how best we can deliver for our customers.

If I am not focused or able to follow through on a request, or if I am facing competing priorities, it is up to me to speak up and take care of myself -- and ultimately the customer. For example, six months ago a critical situation was discovered with software and a vendor. A Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) staff member immediately contacted the customer to inform them of the issue. Unbeknownst to this team member, management and other team members were already working to address the issue and everything was resolved by the time the customer escalated based upon the earlier notification. This gave OIT a “black eye” in a moment when we actually shined. If our own team had only worked internally to resolve and build a common customer message, we could have taken care of ourselves first while ultimately serving the customer.

In another recent situation when I was asked to address a process gap on a project that had caused a customer outage, I realized quickly this was not my problem to solve alone. I needed to pull together the relevant team members and analyze the situation and expectations. In the end, the outcome was to hold the customer more accountable for signoff and testing. Decisions about risk and change need to be made by the business. OIT needed to work internally as a team before presenting a unified approach to process and communication.

I want all our OIT employees to consider OIT first, and to protect our image and reputation above all else. This means we should challenge each other to be more accountable for our ultimate delivery of customer commitments. However, the final customer delivery cannot occur without alignment, accountability, and agreement from within (personally and organizationally). When faced with any challenge, I look inward (where I focus on my own capabilities and perceptions and how I can shift reality); to my broader team (where I focus on leveraging strengths, talents, and perspectives different from my own); and to OIT (where I focus on broader team services and our statewide view). I have seen many instances where team members share issues too readily -- and too early -- with the customer. Often, one internal conversation could have resolved the issue, and the customer need never be concerned with annoying turbulence and could just enjoy the journey.

If we take care of ourselves first, and then OIT, we ultimately take better care of the customers while we create a more cohesive and consistent customer experience. Put your oxygen mask on first, then breathe in and breathe out.

William Chumley: Chief Customer Officer. Weekend color guard judge, computer science study, traveler, bookworm. He knows how to get it done and is always listening to the customer. Find me on Twitter at @WilliamMChumley.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Location Matters: GIS in Colorado

Consider this scenario: Flood waters are rising in several Colorado communities and and there is a desperate need to communicate where damage has occurred, what roads are closed and what neighborhoods are inaccessible. Similarly, state government needs to assemble information on the damage locations and possible impacted facilities, like water treatment plants and oil wells, to plan allocation of response resources. On top of all this, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) must get information to coordinate resources and direct funds for recovery.

You probably spend a lot of time looking at Google Maps for things like finding the closest coffee shop, but mapped information, or geographic data, is critical to local, state and federal government as well. Such data are captured, managed and analyzed in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and many state agencies use GIS routinely.

With the flood example, coordinating GIS data is the key to make it freely available and usable. That’s where the our GIS Coordination & Development Program comes in, and here is just some of what we have going on:
  1. Creating a statewide database of standardized address locations. Why are we doing this? This is Google right? Not really. Google and other online navigation sites don’t do as well in rural or exurban areas. For example, one eastern Colorado resident called OIT worried that his Garmin device showed his address in the middle of a lake. We get data directly from local governments that manage their addresses, and with it can analyze the number of residences and businesses impacted by a disaster more quickly.
  2. Coordinating local and other GIS data. If you want to use geographic data within a GIS, the question often arises, “What data is available, and how do I get it?” We are creating a single point of collection for local GIS data and making it available to all state agencies. This means that state agencies can be more efficient, spending more time on work rather than looking for data. It also means local governments don’t get multiple requests for the same data from different state agencies and that data will be available more expediently to FEMA and other agencies in an emergency. If you are interested in using GIS, you can find state data easily on the Colorado Information Marketplace.
  3. Working with Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to support GIS use in emergencies. How will the state and federal governments develop a comprehensive picture of the scope of emergencies in order to allocate response and recovery resources properly? This requires a significant amount of coordination and aggregation of data from local, state and federal entities, and OIT is assisting by leading this coordination effort.
  4. Gathering and maintaining broadband data. We are collecting coverage data from broadband providers and creating a statewide database of broadband coverage. And we’re displaying this data on this interactive web map. This allows the state to know where broadband service exists for planning, policy and potential funding. It also allows residents to find out which providers offer broadband service in their neighborhood.
  5. Supporting other state agencies’ GIS. Developing online mapping applications to show data and allow customers to interact with the information often requires specialized skills and resources. When state agencies don’t have the resources, OIT assists them by supporting these applications. This allows the State Land Board to show Coloradans State Trust Lands locations, the Department of Agriculture to collect input from stakeholders on the presence of noxious weeds to use federal funds effectively, and the Office of Emergency Management to show Colorado residents what hazards are prevalent in their neighborhood, just to name a few examples.
Earlier this month we hosted the GIS Data Coordination Summit with more than 80 representatives of GIS programs at state and county levels attending, showcasing the need for GIS coordination. Our discussions helped identify the need for GIS data in key business areas like emergency management, law enforcement, economic development, transportation management and natural resource management. We will use this feedback to shape a tactical plan that will be shared by July 2015 and will guide Colorado's GIS coordination over the next year.
Jon Gottsegen: State GIS Coordinator. Geospatial thought leader. Find me on Twitter at @COGISCoord.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

It’s all about the connection.

Sometimes I think about how I possibly could survive a day without my smartphone. Or what about going a day without Internet access? Growing up in the digital age, these what ifs seem somewhat impossible to imagine -- or at least difficult.

Most of us likely take our connectivity for granted. This may be surprising to you, but nearly 15 percent of Coloradans lack access to basic broadband. In rural parts of the state that number jumps to 40 percent. Think about that as 2 in 5 of your friends disconnected.
As the primary coordinator for broadband strategy in Colorado, the Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) is working with multiple state agencies, local stakeholders and the private sector to ensure we solve this broadband gap and get Colorado residents connected. Whether through facilitating conversations, identifying funding mechanisms or helping areas develop broadband plans, real progress is being made to ensure the state has the broadband connectivity it needs to prosper. For example, Rio Blanco County just began the ambitious project of bringing broadband to every single one of their county residents.

One of the great examples of broadband collaboration in Colorado is the annual Mountain Connect Broadband Development Conference, with representatives from across the state joining OIT -- including the Department of Local Affairs, the Department of Regulatory Affairs, the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and the Public Utilities Commission. The conference is in Vail this year, and it’s coming up this weekend June 7-9.

At Mountain Connect, you’ll hear from subject matter experts from State of Colorado agencies and stakeholders on broadband mapping, economic impact, collaboration, first responder applications, and funding and net neutrality implications. Join us and register online through Friday, June 5, (or feel free to register right at the door). Learn more and find the full conference agenda on

Monica Coughlin: Chief Strategy Officer. Sports enthusiast, volunteer, proud aunt, world traveler. I tell the IT industry why Colorado is the place to be. Find me on Twitter at @MonicaCoughlin.