In September 2007, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts welcomed a new IT leader. Ann Margulies joined Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration as assistant secretary for information technology and CIO and will also serve as assistant secretary for administration and finance.
Margulies comes to the job from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was executive director of OpenCourseWare, a web-based initiative that provides free worldwide access to MIT’s course materials. Prior to that, she held IT positions at Harvard University.
StateTech Managing Editor Amy Schurr interviewed Ann Margulies about her new job and the goals she intends to accomplish.
STATETECH: What attracted you to the Massachusetts CIO post and why did you take the job?
MARGULIES: It’s a unique opportunity to apply my experience to serve the public and, hopefully, make a significant positive impact.
STATETECH: Please tell me a little about your experience. What aspects of your background at MIT and in the private sector will you draw on in leading IT in the commonwealth?
MARGULIES: Universities are a lot like government — large, complicated, decentralized organizations full of smart, dedicated individuals. At Harvard and MIT, I worked on universitywide initiatives that required consensus-driven, strategic direction and a collective focus on delivery. In the private sector, I learned the importance of goals and metrics. The combination of for-profit and nonprofit management approaches can be difficult but very powerful.
STATETECH: What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure and what are your goals for the state’s IT systems?
MARGULIES: Beyond theobviousgoal of helping to make government more efficient and easier to access, I hope that we can enable some real breakthroughs in how services are delivered by working across agencies. With constrained resources, we need to work collaboratively and be smart about investments that can be shared and reused by multiple agencies.
STATETECH: What kind of vision do you have for technology enabling constituent services?
MARGULIES: Constituents should expect to interact with government the same way we interact with business. It should be easy to find the information you need and then use services. Government should have a holist view of our citizens and use the information we have to help citizens proactively. Amazon recommends books they think I will like; government should be able to steer people to the services they need instead of forcing people to hunt for help they need.
STATETECH: What do you think are some of the most important emerging technologies the state’s agencies and citizens can benefit from?
MARGULIES: Web-enabled applications, mobile technologies, and an overall service-oriented architecture that will allow more seamless integration and sharing of services.
STATETECH: There’s been quite a bit of turnover in the CIOpost over the past few years. What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge you’ll experience?
MARGULIES: Delivering technology services is all about the people, and the Commonwealth fortunately has a group of very dedicated, long-term IT staff. Our biggest challenge will be to hire and retain talented staff for some of the very large implementations ahead.
STATETECH: You’ve also been tapped to serve as an assistant secretary for administration and finance. How will you balance your dual roles?
MARGULIES: It’s not so much a dual role as a broader role that will provide me with a closer perspective of the administration’s priorities and challenges. Being part of the senior administration and finance team will help me to make sure that the technology investments and initiatives are aligned with the administration’s priorities.
STATETECH: How do you plan to spend your first 90 days on the job? What are your goals?
MARGULIES: 30 days listening, 30 days synthesizing and planning, 30 days getting going. … The administration’s top priority when it comes to information technology is ensuring that state government is open, transparent and accessible.
STATETECH: What is your leadership style?
MARGULIES: I believe in distributed leadership. By that I mean working with CIOs across the agencies on a common vision and then empowering people at all levels to deliver.
STATETECH: Looking at your career so far, what achievements are you most proud of?
MARGULIES: Building high performance teams; MIT OpenCourseWare — delivering something that has a positive impact on people’s lives all over the world.