Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Remote Colorado Counties Rally for Broadband Coverage

Today's blog comes from Anthony (Tony) Neal-Graves, the executive director of the Colorado Broadband Office. Tony is responsible for driving the state’s broadband strategy and utilizing public and private sector relationships in communities across the state to support broadband expansion.

Pagosa Springs, Colorado
A wonderful benefit of my job is travelling around the state to work with local communities. Hinsdale and Archuleta counties presented one of those great opportunities. On my way to visit Pagosa Springs and Lake City, I saw some of the most beautiful scenery in the state. On the drive between the towns I passed a sheep farmer in Mineral County, with his five sheep dogs, herding an entire flock down the middle of the road. How many places are you going to get to see sheepherding? Hinsdale County is one of the most remote counties in Colorado and the United States; it is the least densely populated county in Colorado and is mostly (97%) made up of public land.

These remote counties have the same need for broadband access as any other community in the state. The wilderness and national forests attract large populations every year to enjoy the outdoor experience through camping, hunting, and fishing. Each year the expectation to be connected while experiencing nature continues to grow. Access for public safety services in critically important. Finally, these communities want to attract businesses and robust, high-speed, internet access is a must-have.

Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County are partnering with southern Hinsdale County to develop a strategic plan for ubiquitous broadband within the region. Archuleta County also participates in the Southwest Colorado Access Network (SCAN) project, a regional broadband plan for the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments (SWCCOG). Hinsdale County is active in Region 10 and the planning/development efforts led by that organization. Hinsdale needs to hold a SB152 election in order to be able to move from planning to execution for the county.

Bringing high-speed broadband to this region will enhance the tourist experience of this picturesque area of the state. More importantly, it will be a catalyst for sustainable economic development.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Northwest Colorado is Getting Across the Divide

Today's blog comes from Anthony (Tony) Neal-Graves, the executive director of the Colorado Broadband Office. Tony is responsible for driving the state’s broadband strategy and utilizing public and private sector relationships in communities across the state to support broadband expansion.

I took a four day, whirl-wind tour of the northwest corner of the state hosted by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG). I visited 9 counties and 5 towns meeting with the local leadership to gain insight and provide support to the planning and projects they have underway to solve rural broadband access. Each municipality and county is at a different point on the continuum of broadband development but what is common among all is the passion and focus to bring high quality, affordable broadband to the citizens in their community. It is viewed as key to being able to participate in the state, national, and global economy in this century.

While every meeting was invaluable in providing insight to the solutions that are required in each community, two stops stood out in my mind as unique: Meeker in Rio Blanco county and Red Cliff in Eagle county. By now most are aware of the success of the public-private partnership in Rio Blanco County led by Blake Mobley, IT Director. Through a combination of fiber and fixed wireless, the county will provide broadband performance that would challenge the services in any place in the US. More significantly, the county has built the infrastructure with forethought to be prepared for future needs of the community.

Red Cliff, a former mining community in Eagle County with a population of 390, has endured years of no internet service beyond a single T-1 line at 1.5Mbps; in other words, no internet. This fall, the entire community will have access to high quality internet for the first time as result of a public-private partnership. Mayor Anuschka Bales has been a leader in driving the project and we all look forward to celebrating Red Cliff jumping across the digital divide!

These two projects were made possible through the collaboration between local governments, the Department of Local Affairs, the Department of Regulatory Agencies, and the private sector. It is proof of what partnerships can achieve.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Seven Ways to Make Sure Your Stuff is Safe in the Cloud

Whether you know it or not, chances are you are storing at least some of your data in a cloud-based service. Cloud services make accessing and backing up your data a breeze (pun intended). For instance, if you dropped your phone in a river while hiking, the cloud has likely already saved all of your photos, contacts and crucial data.

Not only can your life be backed up, but you might even have information about others. The days of posting on Facebook to ask your friends to send a text to your new number so you can save theirs is a thing of the past, given most people have their phone number linked to their social media. The adoption of cloud services by consumers has exploded in the last couple of years, to the point that as of February 2016, 782 million people are using Apple’s iCloud (Apple Insider, 2016).

However, where there is convenience there is also opportunity. It is so easy for you to access your personal data that, well, it is very easy for someone else to access your personal data. Needless to say, extra precautions do need to be taken when storing your personal data in the cloud. This is because when your photos, videos, music and personal data are backed up to ‘the cloud’, they are not really being backed up in a specific place. With data centers opening, migrating, closing, and data being stored in multiple data centers for redundancy, where is your personal data really? Vic Winkler of Dublin Business Wire explains, “Data may not remain in the same system, the same data center, or within the cloud provider’s systems. Conceivably, data may even be stored in another country, incurring considerable concern” (2011). If your data could be anywhere, you should probably do your part to protect it, right? Below are some suggestions to help you in this noble quest.

1. Strong Passwords

You might be surprised to know that software exists that can correctly guess your password in a matter of hours, maybe minutes. This is known as a brute force attack, and as non-threatening and friendly as it sounds, is pretty scary stuff. This software comes in licensed and open-source (free) forms and is usually used for security testing by companies, but it can also be used for personal gain. You have more than likely heard about the 2014 celebrity hack which compromised very personal photos. This came about after very weak passwords were exploited by hackers.

Many users create passwords they find easy to remember, but in turn are easy to crack given all it takes is for a hacker to gain a small amount of information about the user. A very common and vulnerable password is one containing the name of a user’s pet, which can be easily attained through social media.

2. Two-factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is available for many of the accounts you have, including cloud accounts. This heightened level of authentication adds an extra layer of security to your login credentials. When you or anyone tries to log into your account with the password, you will be notified by text, email or, depending on the cloud service, in-app notification. You will then have the option to approve or deny the connection, according to the location and device data provided by this notification in regards to the client signing in. Two-factor authentication gets two thumbs up from us!

Here is a website where you can search for which of your accounts offer two-factor, and how to enable it.

3. Don’t keep work files in your personal cloud accounts

Keeping work information in your personal cloud accounts is just asking for trouble. Nobody wants to be the person who is responsible for a breach at their company. For example, the breach of customer information that occurred when a Dropbox employee’s Dropbox account was compromised in 2012. This employee had a document saved in this cloud-based service which was storing a large amount of Dropbox customers’ email addresses, and later on ended up saved in the hard drive of a hacker’s computer, before hitting the public realm. Do yourself and your career a favor and do not store anything work-related, especially sensitive information in your personal cloud accounts.

4. Don’t use the same password for all of your accounts

You would not use the same key to lock your home, car and other property, so it is definitely not a good idea to use the same password for multiple accounts. Often, bad actors will attempt to crack your password on a less valuable account and then use that password on higher value targets, like your online banking or social media accounts.

It is not always easy to remember multiple passwords for all of your accounts, and that is why password applications like LastPass exist. These applications not only save your passwords with the added security of two-factor authentication, but they also offer a password generator that makes securing and re-securing accounts a very standard process.

If applications are not your thing, another helpful practice is to use a sequence that makes sense to you for your passwords:

  • You pick one number and one special character (like *2).
  • Then you use that combination at the front and end of your password *2xxx*2.
  • You can use a sentence that describes the account you use, but only using the first letter of each word.

Example: For an Amazon account, you could use ‘Love to shop at Amazon’ as the phrase + your number/special character combination, so the password would be *2Lts@A*2.

5. Make sure your cloud provider uses encryption on your data

Whether you are using a service like iCloud or another application, make sure that the provider encrypts your data. For example, our Google platform encrypts data by default, with no additional action required from you. Apple’s iCloud uses a minimum of 128-bit encryption (an industry standard) and SSL (Secure Socket Layer) on your backed-up data. Not only does this sound highly technical and fancy, but it ensures that your data can only be utilized by you.

There are also apps that use a high level of encryption on data that you can store your stuff in.

We love encryption and so should you, so here is a more in-depth look at it:

6. Consider whether you want your data to automatically upload to the cloud

If you have data that you would not want anyone else to see, you might want to disable automatic cloud back-ups. This way, you can make sure the data in your cloud is only what you feel comfortable storing there. This practice also ensures that if your cloud account has a size limit, you will not be uploading content that is not valuable.

7. Use additional backup methods

It is definitely a good idea to backup your data in more places than just in the cloud. If your cloud account was compromised, and you had it backed up to an external hard drive for instance, you would be just fine.

Another alternative is a network-assisted drive (NAS), it behaves like an external hard drive, and all devices in your secure network can back-up to it without the need of a USB connection. NAS’s also tend to double as a media server where content can be viewed by all authorized devices in your network.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Customer service on point

Today's walk is with a friend of mine from our pre-OIT days at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Enterprise Service Desk Manager Jim Nethercott and I both came over to the Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) around the same time and are trying to bring some of that public health empathy over to IT services. Jim, specifically, is doing so as our OIT Service Desk lead. He is reshaping both the customer experience and "how to" of the technology behind how we provide care to our customers. Great stuff!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Just like on TV remodeling shows, we went "open space" on it

Today’s Walk & Talk is with Enterprise Applications Manager Chuck Busch who shows us the new digs at our headquarters office. Spoiler alert: We go from cube farm to collaboration.

See how the Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) created a unique workspace for its employees in order to increase efficiency, creativity, information sharing and the use of our existing building square footage.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Broadband Stories from the Road: Witnessing a first In Colorado Springs

Today's blog comes from Anthony (Tony) Neal-Graves, the executive director of the Colorado Broadband Office. Tony is responsible for driving the state’s broadband strategy and utilizing public and private sector relationships in communities across the state to support broadband expansion.

Earlier this summer I was able to celebrate with Colorado Springs as it became the first city in Colorado to join the U.S. Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities (SBC) program. Colorado Springs joins 20 other cities nationwide with the common goal of developing next generation applications and services supporting citizens through advanced, high-speed networks.

As with other SBC cities, Colorado Springs is working to ensure citizens have access to advanced high speed wired and wireless networks and more importantly, applications and services that provide true benefit to the community that is the promise of a “smart city.” SBC was launched in 2015 through a three-year $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation and requires each city to develop two applications that require gigabit access.

As executive director of the Colorado Broadband Office, I am very excited to see the ongoing journey of Colorado Springs as a smart community. The city’s Catalyst Campus received a $750,000 Advanced Industries Infrastructure grant in 2015 from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade to build out the IT network infrastructure for the Space Operations and Cybersecurity Center and Research and Development laboratory. The United States Air Force will be a major tenant in the facility.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Transparency + Efficiency: Enhancing major incident management

When there is an IT issue that impacts many people, like an application isn’t working or a system is down, it’s described in IT terms as a major incident, although there may be more “colorful” language employed by users...

The good news is that OIT has a team devoted to managing major incidents. They are charged with bringing the appropriate individuals and teams from OIT together to coordinate the work of getting the issue fixed. They are also responsible for notifying all of OIT of the incident through the Major Incident Management dashboard. Over the past few years, we’ve focused a lot of energy on modernizing our incident management process - including custom building a dashboard, site and notification system that fits our unique needs across subject area and geographic notifications. As a result, we’ve dramatically improved response, reaction and notification times to impacted users. We have standardized the format and types of notifications to help create a cadence and expectation of service information and our incident management team continues to push into new areas to improve collaboration, transparency and accountability. This is a subscription service designed for OIT staff, but we’ve also made it available to our customers for full transparency.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Walk & Talk: Saving money, security, and rooting new tech for video/chat conferencing

Today's Walk & Talk is with OIT’s Google Operations Director Lilo Santos. Lilo and I've sat in the same room for the last four years and, arguably, share a brain. Over those years, some of our central drivers for approaching service implementation has been an emphasis on cost avoidance, maximizing the array of tools available in platform services that we already own, and the culture change associated with rooting new technologies in government.

Over the last week or so we've seen a major enhancement to our state Google platform as we jumped to the new “enterprise” level of Google services. While many of the major enhancements that came with this focus on greater admin/backend tools, some of the enhancements are customer-facing and are helping us make an even stronger run at the central drivers above that Lilo and I love -- cost avoidance, maximization of tools and the associated culture change of govtech. In this Walk & Talk we talk about some of these strategies in motion and approaches we are using with the new tools available.

Specifically, we are focused on implementing chat/video conferencing now that dial-in numbers are available in calendar events at no additional cost, and expanding the use of video meetings as these tools have now been brought directly under our Business Associates Agreement (BAA) to provide security and confidence for handling health-related information exchanges -- something that our health departments, state employee assistance programs and citizens must have.

Watch my interview with Lilo and learn more>>

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Gary made me care about math: Cost avoidance at the State of Colorado

Gary Hodge has achieved something my parents and teachers would be proud of; he made me care about math. I’m a history major -- driven by heart and emotion rather than vulcan logic -- with parents who are still pretty proud I even have a job. Point being, I freely admit math is not my strong point.

Gary, however, showed me how to use math to tell a story that I care deeply about -- cost avoidance. The money we spend is not OIT’s money. It is my money. It is my family’s money. It is my friends’ hard earned dollars that has ended up as tax dollars. When government asks for money to spend it is on the hook to demonstrate the return on that investment and the cost savings or avoidance; and there is so much room for improvement here. How often does it feel like we start a project, hurl a few numbers at a board and jam on, finishing that project and immediately jumping to take on the next challenge? Time goes on and lessons learned are lost, past project fiscal analysis discarded or forgotten, and the world of the “now” taken over.

A few years ago, I met Gary and started talking with him about how to invert that. My team is made up of liberal arts majors, who rely on tip calculators to get by (myself included). In talking with Gary, we wanted to front end, standardize, document and track our cost avoidance, meticulously noting contract stand-downs, reduction in duplication of spends, etc. We saw value in the story, but didn’t know quite how to tell it.

Gary helped us by giving us guidelines and templates, and patiently explaining the ins and outs. He provided resources such as the National Association of State Procurement Officers (NASPO) Benchmarking, Cost Savings and Avoidance Guidelines -- something I would’ve never found nor read on my own in a million years -- to help get our information in order.

The result? In the past several years we’ve reported north of $12.5 million in cost avoidance from our three person Google team -- WAY in excess of what we’ve actually spent for the system. In the first two years our reporting constituted 80 percent for each year of the total reported cost avoidance for OIT. While we are certainly proud of that, we were way more proud of the fiscal year ending in 2016. We doubled our numbers ($7.2 mil) yet only constituted 50 percent of the total reported cost avoidance, because other programs started to also identify, track and report.

There are two convergences here that are important and why we aim to improve further:
  • The money pile isn’t getting bigger for government.
  • Increasingly, platforms are having major impacts further up the chain on policy outcomes. Put simply, IT services are owning more of the budget and being looked at to help deliver not only technology -- but policy outcomes. This forces us to become better at business analysis, intelligence, process improvement, and technology if we are to maximize our dollars for value.
Gary ROCKS. Not only as a fiscal officer that we’ve grown close with professionally, but personally just because he is Gary. Patient, guiding, kind and funny. We’re still working on a plan where he can retire AND still play and help us break a few more things :)

Watch my Walk & Talk with Gary and learn more>>

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

An opportunity fair for our Colorado tech employees

This week I got a chance to catch up with OIT Deputy Director of Enterprise Applications (EA) Jeannett Davis about our first "Opportunity Fair" coming up to get state tech employees introduced to new skills, opportunities and projects.

I am thrilled to support this initiative because I think Jeannett and her team are really on to something with how we as a govtech community prepare for the future (in addition to providing people new skills and opportunities they want to work on, which is just the right thing to do!).

We're starting modest. The kickoff is planned for Aug. 31, and it will be the first of its kind for our employees. At the event a number of project teams working on new technologies and training programs will be represented in a booth-style format. Staff will be able to peruse and learn more about these projects and teams. Because the effort is so heavily backed by senior leadership, work is already underway with our human resources department to grease and encourage job-sharing/shadowing efforts and speed the process for employees to gain access to these new training opportunities.

It will be interesting to see how the program matures into the phase of actually moving people from one team to another - especially around coverage management challenges. The EA team is confident that they can start small and begin this process of getting people into positions they love and armed with the skills they need to future-proof themselves in their career trajectories at OIT.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Walk & Talk: DevOps at the state and motorcycles

I snagged a few minutes with Milo Knezevic in this DTO Walk & Talk. Milo’s actual title is "Program Manager," but his real function is the State of Colorado's DevOps Guru. Over the past several months, under Milo's lead, what were buzzwords being thrown around in cafe and hallway conversations have become a reality. Milo took the lead to bring DevOps to Colorado OIT. In doing so, he has convened a cross-functional team, has conducted DevOps training, ran exercises to refine our process and put a structure around DevOps to fundamentally change "how" government works.... which is a Herculean task to undertake inside the complex admin layers of traditional government development habits.

Milo stares down complex tradition and says "Nope. We can do this better." It is not just an evolutionary leap -- it is a revolution and one I am proud to be a small part of.

Keep pushing, Milo. You got a whole team here that believes in what you are doing and happy to pitch in and support.

Learn more about what Milo does at the state -- and his love of motorcycles!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Windy walking with Enterprise Salesforce Administrator Craig Fuller

As we mentioned yesterday, we are getting caught up on a few older Walk & Talks in light of a fun partnership between StateScoop and OIT to share this Digital Transformation series with a wider audience.

So next up is this windy, less-than-optimal audio quality (you can handle it we promise) Walk & Talk with Enterprise Salesforce Administrator/Senior Developer Craig Fuller. Craig talks OIT governance of Salesforce, current efforts around rolling out Salesforce's new improved user experience "Lightning" program, and opportunities that will provide for state projects and programs. Watch the walk!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hangouts and a bag for this Walk & Talk

Fun chat with OIT’s Digital Media Manager, Kevin Ruby. Kevin is lead on our efforts across the state to help agencies and programs use new technologies and techniques to highlight their programs online. From managing OIT's Twitter (@oitcolorado) and Facebook accounts, running YouTube Live events (recent example? State of Colorado's Geo-spatial Information Systems (GIS) 2017 Summit livestream from last month), teaching users how to host their own streams in YouTube, improving meeting efficiency using Google Hangouts, and supporting how we are creating options for mobile and remote work environments, Kevin is continuously pushing.

He also helps manage a cool pilot program we started called "Hangouts in a Bag," where we provide backpacks that that be be checked out by any staff member. Each bag contain conference room mics, HD cameras and chromebook laptops. The goal is to remove the technical obstacles to bring any meeting, anywhere, online. Kevin provides the training to anyone interested on how to do it. Plus, Kevin is funny and cool.

Watch my interview with Kevin and learn more>>

Curious about the Hangouts in a Bag? Nothing super-complicated. For locations that we don't anticipate wifi or hardline being available, we also provide mifi hotspots to check out.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Walk & Talk expansion: Your turn!

We recently had a chance to talk with Jake Williams (@JakeWilliamsDC) at StateScoop and are teaming up to relay some of our Walk & Talks on their channels.

In talking with Jake, it was clear that we're all pushing in the same direction, with the same questions, with curiosities and desires to know more about not only WHAT our colleagues across government in IT/govtech are doing, but also WHO they are. We hope to use some of these new tools and videos to create opportunities to encourage others to go low-band and pick up a phone or take a walk to interview their own colleagues. Selfishly, I am also super curious to find out how others are pursuing the "making it better than we found it" government life. And instead of sitting and watching canned presentations I want to learn about the day-to-day efforts.

In this week's episode, I catch up with our OIT Chief Communications Officer, Tauna Lockhart. Tauna heads up team of five comms staff that do everything from press releases, internal comms, audio/video support, reports, web and content design and more.

Additionally, Tauna is also engaged in a growing project we have here in Colorado with CareerWise Colorado. CareerWise's mission is to create opportunities for youth and businesses across Colorado by developing and supporting an innovative, sustainable youth apprenticeship program. We have had, on our Google Team here at OIT, an opportunity to work closely with STEM students and are in our third year of hosting high schoolers as interns with our team. I benefited from mentors and opportunities I was given by people who cared enough to help guide me, and I am energized to see us working to making that a norm for more and more students in Colorado for public service pathways.

Look for our Walk & Talks on StateScoop soon, and get ready to submit your own!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Opening those data doors

Another beautiful Colorado day, another Digital Transformation Walk & Talk!

Digital Transformation Officer Brandon Williams (@bwwilliams) gets to talking with State of Colorado's Chief Data Officer Jon Gottsegen. Hear about how Jon is encouraging the augmentation of machine-readable data in the Colorado Information Marketplace, building out the State's geospatial library, and mapping out a plan for agency datasets.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Walking, talking, user experience

Today was a beautiful day for a chat with User Experience Manager Jacq Pyun. Here's a snippet:

So, how do you really change government? You take a new job -- one that has never been done in the State -- and you run with it like you stole it, engaging with programs, with agencies, forcing both staff and users to try new approaches (such as wire framing, iterating dev changes, understanding user expectations, etc) and question processes and assumptions. That is EXACTLY what Jacq is doing at the State. Moreover, she's doing it with a smile and infectious enthusiasm.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Time for another walk around the block: OIT Business Manager Kim Chau

Digital Transformation Officer Brandon Williams (@bwwilliams) is at it again -- this time taking a stroll with one our business managers Kim Chau. Take a look at this month's Walk & Talk, and let us know what you think!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Just going for a walk with the Colorado Benefits Management System

We’ve got a new series for you all (spoiler alert: it’s real low budget).

The Digital Transformation “Walk & Talks” are here -- first up with Nancy Dierker, Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS) Governance and Contracts Manager. Digital Transformation Officer Brandon Williams (@bwwilliams) walks around the block of the Governor’s Office of Information Technology office to learn more about state employees and the various digital services available to Coloradans.

It’s a really low key, no pressure, fun way to learn about Colorado state government (although it also requires our amazing Colorado weather). Let us know what you think!

DTO Walk & Talk: Colorado Benefits Management System Governance and Contracts Manager Nancy Dierker >>

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?