CTO Download: IT as Your City's 'Business Wire'

Even on limited budgets, Steven Narvaez, CIO of Deltona, Fla., says that IT not only powers operations, but springboards business unit goals.

Steven Narvaez leads the Deltona, Fla., IT Department with a strong focus of encouraging collaboration and clear communication between IT and the rest of government and its business units.

With a population of 86,290 the vast majority of the city is residential, with most commercial, entertainment and employment needs met outside the city limits in neighboring areas. Over the last 8 years, Narvaez has helped Deltona make the most of a limited budget by carefully investing in practical technology solutions and initiatives to help the city modernize.

From your perspective, what is the IT Department’s role in government and how do you feel it has evolved over the years?

Narvaez: IT used to be a static vertical where services and service delivery were dictated by IT departments mostly due to process and platform constraints, but also due to past culture. Today’s IT is more of a utility as opposed to a service. The difference is everything now runs off “one wire” and IT is responsible for that “”.

These days, IT has a view into the strengths and weaknesses of the products, plans and personnel that make up a government. IT is in a unique position to help find or leverage technologies that can ensure business units achieve their goals.

At a minimum IT can be a true sounding board for the business units, a transparent and straightforward voice to advise if what they wish to achieve can be done immediately or if it needs to be phased in.

Also, with the revolution of the consumerization of IT, our role has evolved into one where we need to partner with the business units to help them leverage technology to better serve our customer base. I say “our customer base” because IT is or should be intimately involved with the business units as their success is directly related to how well technology is leveraged to enhance the business process and service delivery to the customer."

One big change in IT that I have embraced and championed is that of communication and education. An educated and informed customer is your best ally. Communication and continued education builds collaboration and trust in IT as a true business partner.

It is only through education that trust can be built between IT and the business units (IT’s customers) within government. Trust begins to be formed when the customer is aware that IT understands their situation and goals. As well, trust is enhanced If the customer acknowledges IT’s position, capabilities and facilities.

As a technology leader working within the public sector what specific technologies interest you?

Narvaez: Security first and foremost due to the massive increase of malicious attacks from phishing scams to ransomware, The rise of Apps is also a challenge as many if not all are cloud based, so specific attention needs to be paid to the contract language and SLA’s that are written as data privacy and ownership are critical.

If government entities are offering these Apps to their citizens as portals for community engagement, then they are responsible to their customers for the security of their devices and what information is collected.

Are there any specific Technologies or IT Strategies that Deltona has adopted during your tenure that you are most proud of?

Narvaez: First that comes to mind is partnering with a vendor to build out a fiber based MPLS network that connected all 18 city facilities. After that developing a strategy and business plan to build out a city owned fiber network to control communication costs and improve connectivity speed.

What were some of the major challenges Deltona faced when attempting to adopt these new technologies or strategies?

Narvaez: First was establishing a cohesive enterprise network. 8 years ago we only had 4 sites connected and they were communicating via slow cumbersome unsecure DSL circuits or bonded copper lines using a VPN tunnel. By partnering with Brighthouse / Spectrum a robust MPLS WAN was designed and deployed allowing all city sites access to all city platforms and putting them all on the city’s phone system.

By partnering with our Public Works department a plan has been developed where by whenever Public Works does any infrastructure work anywhere in the city, an IT specific conduit is now included with their plans. It may not be used immediately but at least it is available for future needs and .

We are a modest government of a residential community so we need to build and plan for the future at every possible moment. At 47 square miles with over 500 miles of roads building out a complete fiber network will take decades since we have a very modest commercial base. Prudent planning will allow us to build wisely so we can get the best bang for our buck as quickly as possible. Having a plan in place to put conduits in wherever infrastructure work is done will only help us in the long run. Upgrades and improvements are going on constantly. If we aren’t proactive in this manner than the time frame goes from decades to generations and the cost goes from feasible to impractical.

What are some challenges you’ve faced when implementing new technology solutions?

Narvaez: The vendor was simply focused on “making the sale.”

Implementation and making the technology work now becomes the customer’s responsibility. This puts an enormous strain on both IT resources and the relationship between IT and the business unit when problems arise and the cost invariably escalates.

IT and the business units need to act as trusted partners. If the business involves IT early in the decision-making process, then any platform or compatibility issues will be identified early in the process. If problems are identified during the sales process, then it’s incumbent on the vendor to solve the issue or tell the truth. Whereas, once the solution is purchased it’s now ultimately the responsibility of the customer to make it work.

EfficientGov’s CTO Download column highlights the work of civic IT leaders that achieve notable, forward-thinking technical solutions that change the game for their local governments. Who they are, what they believe and their approaches advance cities governing under limited resources.

Civic technology leaders who would like to participate in CTO Download should email editor@efficientgov.com.

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