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CIOs Under Pressure

IT officers are getting more efficient, but guess what keeps them up at night?

Fortnightly Magazine - March 2007

in on a target. It gets folks to do their planning and operations. There were 17 major data centers that were merged when the department was merged. We’re going to move those into two active data centers. That project is ongoing. We have an RFP out. We have already opened the first 25,000 square feet of our first data center. We’re under construction on the next 60,000 square feet of that. It will be about a 100,000 square feet altogether. We’re moving our applications into that.

All of this is part of getting rid of some of the legacy systems, but doing that with a departmental focus, leveraging off each other.

We can lower the costs. That’s a big thing for taxpayers and citizens, but we’re also getting a much better performance and integration of the data, which has its own dividends.

Fortnightly: What’s behind the formation of the CIO council?

Charbo: Our investment-review piece and enterprise architecture all sits underneath me. But to make sure all needs are getting addressed throughout the department, we have the CIO council. If there’s a major investment or configuration issue, or a component is stuck and they need some assistance, we use that council to bring up the issue and vet it, and make decisions on directions to move, investments, and changes in our enterprise architecture.

I have a committee of just the seven CIOs to make sure we address the key mission-support components of the department. They’re a part of the full council.

Fortnightly: What lessons are there for utilities in the work you do?

Charbo: I came to DHS from USDA and from industry. A corporate environment isn’t all that different from the systems management we have here. You have those disagreements between operating components.

If you’re a co-op, you probably have a lot of the same challenges I do. I’ve always stuck to my guns in that if you do good planning, you get good data. But you don’t want to overburden yourself and be just a planning organization. You have to use your gut a little bit, use your instincts, and go with it. You manage a project, manage deadlines, all built on an end result. If you can’t establish the end result you’re shooting for, I’ve always been one to just stop it, cancel it, get rid of it.

Sometimes we don’t have that luxury here because there may be a legislative mandate. But there are still things where you do have that ability. You can do that, even in government.

Fortnightly: If you had a blank check to change anything you wanted at DHS, what would it be?

Charbo: Make myself better looking.

Denis DesRosiers, Director of Information Services and Facilities, ITC Holdings Corp.

Fortnightly: Your title isn’t CIO, but your job description is a pretty close fit, isn’t it?

DesRosiers: I’m in charge of all facilities-related things at the corporate headquarters and other office locations—not field locations. Basically, I’m responsible for all aspects of IT at ITC: setting policies, making priority decisions related to different projects and where