A view of the Missouri River at Bismarck, N.D.

North Dakota Seeks to Shatter Silos and Streamline Services

A newly appointed chief reinvention officer looks for ways in which agencies and technology mesh together to improve services.

One of the main challenges for governments at any level is bringing a measure of interconnectivity to what has traditionally been an environment consisting primarily of separate departments and agencies, some of which have little or no ability to share information with others. 

In an effort to break down those silos and introduce a measure of unification, North Dakota recently created a new position called chief reinvention officer and hired Julie Cabinaw to fill that role. With a broad business and technology background that includes improving user experience for Amazon and HPE, Cabinaw has worked with technology that makes a difference in people’s lives and creates business success. 

This experience will be helpful as Cabinaw focuses on expanding partnerships and helping the state’s technology office transition from a primarily support-oriented organization to one that takes the lead on new technologies, including blockchain and machine learning, to improve customer experience and enable the state to be more data-driven.

“To me, reinvention is really building upon a strong foundation that already exists within North Dakota government to focus on improving the quality, efficiency, transparency and service delivery to North Dakotans,” Cabinaw says. “We’re looking at how we can use various levers, including culture unification and traditional digital transformation to improve service delivery.”

VIDEO: Find out how state CIOs think their role will change by 2023! 

Chief Reinvention Officer Wants Seamless Experience for Citizens

Currently, if residents want to access any government service, they bear the responsibility for identifying the agency or agencies they need to work with and then coordinating between multiple departments to achieve their goal. 

As CRO, Cabinaw’s goal is to turn that model around and focus on allowing residents to easily cut across different agencies to get the services they need. Take, for example, someone who has a family member with behavioral health or substance abuse issues who may also have had brushes with law enforcement and incarceration at some point. As part of the state’s reinvention effort, the Department of Corrections, Department of Human Services and other agencies would be able to more easily coordinate services to provide one view of that individual and ensure there are no gaps or overlaps.

“We want to be efficient stewards of taxpayers’ money while also providing that family member the best possible care given the resources we have, and that is really what reinvention tries to do when we work in silos in any particular agency,” Cabinaw says. “We’re challenging teams to look at it not as an either/or but as an and/how.”

Since coming in as North Dakota’s CRO in August, Cabinaw has been taking time to get the lay of the land and determine how best to serve the state’s residents. “Like anyone who’s coming in to a new role, the first thing you have to do is learn about the environmental challenges, and one of the things I’m really zeroed in on is unification and thinking about the use cases that surround a particular constituent base,” she says.

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North Dahoka Identifies Where Tech Can Have the Most Impact

Rather than jumping right into technology in the beginning, Cabinaw is taking time to make sure technology is applied most effectively.

“I’ve been in the digital transformation and tech innovation space for a long time, and my experience is that people jump very quickly to technology, when in fact you need to start with people and processes to be able to identify things that really need to go well,” Cabinaw says. “Otherwise, you could be automating a suboptimal process.”

Cabinaw has identified a number of areas that could have the greatest impact when given reinvention strategies, one of which is the Department of Human Services. 

“They’ve started some great work relative to improving child protective services processes and reinventing the childcare licensing process to enable quality care for North Dakota children that prepares them for the next phase of their education and ensures their safety,” Cabinaw says. 

Cabinaw and her team are also working with the state’s Office of Management and Budget to evaluate the current procurement model and identify efficiencies that could smooth the process.

“From a broad perspective, we’re moving from the point of view where one agency procures a service or piece of technology, when there may be three other agencies that could benefit from a similar technology, and if we looked at their requirements, there might be an 80 percent overlap,” Cabinaw says. “We want to open up that kind of thinking so others can take advantage of the same technology and we can reduce the cost to taxpayers.”

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Oct 25 2018