NYC Loses Yet Another IT Head, Over Tech Project Problems

Let's hope Brian Digman, CIO of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and recently named as the state's Public Sector CIO of the Year for 2012, does better than Carole Post, the state's CIO of the Year in 2011.

Two weeks ago, Post announced that she was stepping down from her position as head of New York City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT). The ostensible reason was that New York Law School, where she’ll be executive vice president and chief strategy officer, made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. But according to a New York Times article, Post repeatedly had her effectiveness called into question by Caswell F. Holloway, deputy mayor for operations.

Over the past year, Holloway supposedly “voiced concerns about the cost of an upgrade to CityNet, the city’s internal data network; continuing problems and shortcomings with CitiServ, a data center that was supposed to consolidate dozens of city agency servers; and a shortage of users for NYCWin, a secure municipal wireless network.” (Of course, that's nothing compared to the enormous and seemingly unending cost overruns for the city's troubled Emergency Call System upgrade.)

Holloway, charged with getting a handle on these costly projects whose performance has been nothing if not underwhelming, scheduled regular meetings to keep tabs on whether the DoITT’s overall performance was comparable to the private sector. DoITT staffers characterized these meetings as interrogations. According to the Times article, “Post handled Mr. Holloway’s interrogations ‘stoically,’ said a DoITT staff member who was briefed on the conversations, but others in the department, the staff member said, described feeling ‘annihilated’ by them.”

The contretemps came to a head in December, when Holloway requested a 90-day study of how the city manages tech projects. According to the NYT, the consulting firm McKinsey, which conducted the audit, expressed a lack of confidence in the DoITT’s ability “to guide major technological changes.”

Some observers are willing to give Post a pass, instead laying the blame for the city’s miserable technology track record squarely at the feet of New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is about to hire his fourth DoITT commissioner. Says the Times: “Mr. Bloomberg earned his billions by introducing information technology to the financial world, and he has not been shy about promoting his competence in technical matters.” Encapsulating that point of view is Fred Siegel, an expert on New York City politics. “If it occurred with someone else, you could understand it,” says Siegel. But “[Bloomberg’s] inability to [master these tech projects] is hard to fathom.”

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