San Francisco CIO Miguel Gamiño says he envies the tech sector’s agility and ability to test and react quickly.

Apr 13 2015

Q&A: San Francisco CIO Miguel Gamiño Jr Wants to Revolutionize Service in His City

The city and county of San Francisco aim to transform service delivery.

The city and county of San Francisco recruited Miguel Gamiño Jr. in 2013 from El Paso, Texas, where he was the CIO. Gamiño served as chief operating officer before officially assuming the CIO post last December.

He spoke with StateTech Managing Editor Amy Schurr about the city’s free wireless initiative, the Office 365 rollout and his vision of the IT department acting as a service-focused business.

STATETECH: Given that the Bay Area is a tech hub, what additional expectations do people have of their government?

GAMINO: We are the innovation capital of the world and probably have more tech exports than other communities, so there’s certainly a higher expectation. We are constantly trying to be innovative and creative, but people don’t want the government to be reckless or flippant, either. So we have a delicate line to walk.

There’s a heightened sensitivity to being transparent and mobile-friendly. People are looking for us to take advantage of technology to build efficiencies.

STATETECH: How is the city and county delivering citizen-centric services?

GAMINO: We have done some creative things with hackathons to try to build agility. We’ve also been working really hard to be innovative with our technology adoption and even our procurement processes to make sure that we access the right technology at the right time.

The San Francisco Business Portal has received positive response from the community and other governments, and accolades from many other organizations — most recently, the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. It’s a clear example of good technology that is delivering better services directly to the public. We’ve also done a lot recently with public Wi-Fi.

STATETECH: Where does San Francisco offer free wireless?

GAMINO: Our public Wi-Fi brand is #SFWiFi. We have the service working on Market Street in a partnership with Ruckus and in 32 parks around the city in a partnership with Google. We have Cisco access points in some facilities, so it’s a mix of Ruckus and Cisco. We are actively seeking additional public-private partnerships to expand implementation as quickly as we can.

STATETECH: How are you transforming service delivery?

GAMINO: We are creating a culture that acts like an IT services startup in city government. We live and work in the middle of this startup culture, and all the people at the coffee shops where my staff go are working at places like Twitter, Uber and Square. Our folks ought to have the same level of excitement and energetic culture.

We’re going to deliver a service-focused business and be fanatical about our vision and our aspiration to be the tech partner of choice, not the IT department of mandate. By doing that, we gain efficiencies and deliver better solutions to departments that provide crucial services to the public. If we are providing services that are as good or better than the marketplace, then the natural gravitation will be toward letting us do that for them, effectively earning their business.

STATETECH: How is the Office 365 rollout progressing?

GAMINO: We have all departments and agencies online except for the Public Utilities Commission, the Municipal Transportation Agency, the City Attorney and the Public Defender’s Office. PUC and MTA are large agencies, so when we’re measuring our completion by headcount, they affect those numbers, but from an agency perspective, we’re pretty much there. One way or another, we will have the rollout wrapped up this fiscal year.

STATETECH: What have been the biggest lessons learned in moving to the cloud?

GAMINO: I came to the project already in-flight, so I don’t know precisely what they were dealing with when the project started. However, there were infrastructure issues that probably should have been addressed before going live with a critical application like email. So along the way we ended up having to adjust. It would have been a smoother, cleaner process if those things had been clearly identified and prioritized up front.

STATETECH: How does San Francisco use social media?

GAMINO: Our Chief Marketing Officer Ron Vinson has led the charge on getting a better understanding of how social media impacts government, how the public uses it to interact with us, and how we can use it to improve service delivery. For example, I personally monitor Twitter for comments about our #SFWiFi service and have had direct interactions with customers and used their feedback to instigate service improvements.

We’re establishing a social media team in our department focused on toolsets, standards, policies and best practices as a service center of excellence where departments can come to us for help in getting their social media platforms where they need to be.

STATETECH: Do city workers use social tools to communicate and collaborate?

GAMINO: We have a fairly limited implementation of Yammer. As the second phase of our Office 365 project, we’re going to fully deploy Lync, SharePoint Online and other collaboration tools. Departments and employees use Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms on the public-facing end. Part of our upcoming social strategy will be to formalize how we use these tools internally among employees.

STATETECH: What is your next goal for the IT department?

GAMINO: We’re going to rearchitect our data centers and connectivity to deliver on this service vision, creating competitive and high-performing Infrastructure as a Service utilizing what I’ve coined as a software-defined infrastructure model. Just taking the evolution of virtualization to software-defined networks to software-defined data centers to the next natural step.

We’re highly focused on performance, accountability and transparency. We’re going to work on a performance-based management philosophy called managing for results, make sure our service units are properly arranged, and the matrix to measure performance is clear to everyone. In the near future, that will be fully transparent and published on our web page or some other publicly accessible platform.

John Lee

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