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For Alameda County CIO, Cybersecurity and Change Management Are Key Priorities

Tim Dupuis gives Techwire readers an overview of the projects and priorities his department is overseeing — and a preview of what's a year or two down the road.

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As the chief information officer for a county of 1.5 million people, Tim Dupuis wrapped up a major project last year — the county's sprawling IT Department's move into a repurposed building that had been renovated top to bottom and which now serves as the nerve center for the county's IT operation.

He's also the county's registrar of voters, coming off a midterm election and facing a general next fall.

And as if that weren't enough, he's also the new president of the California County Information Services Directors Association since the term of his predecessor, former San Joaquin County CIO Jerry Becker, has expired; Becker has been promoted to San Joaquin County assistant county administrator. 

This week, Dupuis gave Techwire an overview of his agenda as CIO — the priorities, the challenges, the details, and the opportunities. The interview was lightly edited for style and brevity.

Techwire: Would you consider Alameda County's IT structure to be federated, centralized or a hybrid?

Tim Dupuis: Hybrid. 

Central IT is responsible for:

      • All commodity services such as network, security, email, website management, data center management and cloud services
      • Core business system including management of the ERP, criminal justice system and property system
      • More than 50 percent of the county's desktop and laptop computers
      • Application development
      • County Technology Strategic Plan and Enterprise Architecture ​   
    • Departmental IT is responsible for:
      • Desktop and laptop computer support for the remaining 50 percent that are not supported centrally
      • Business analysis to help integrate technology that improves service delivery
      • Department-specific technology deployments such as body cameras for the sheriff
    •  
Techwire: How would you characterize the overall IT maturity of Alameda County government? Are you where you want to be, in terms of enterprise systems? If not, how long will it take until you are?

Dupuis: The overall maturity of the organization is driven by the strong leadership and support of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and chief administrative officer. Their leadership drives the entire organization to be innovative and leverage technology to advance our safety net services.

Alameda County has received several awards for our technology programs and citizen engagement. We believe we are leaders in this space and are ahead of the gov tech wave in many areas. There is always room for improvement. We completely rewrote our Strategic Plan last year. It has been aligned with the county's 10-year vision, "Vision 2026."

In the area of enterprise systems, Alameda County leads the way for our ERP system and criminal justice system. Our ERP manager was just elected to the board for the Public Sector User Group using PeopleSoft Oracle products. He is also asked to speak at conferences throughout the year about our upgrade process and onboarding system.

We modernized our 30-plus-year-old criminal justice system a couple years ago. This is a fully integrated criminal justice system including the Superior Court's new Tyler system. Alameda also leads the CCISDA Criminal Justice Workgroup. 

We are working on the modernization of our Property system. We have mapped out a nine-year road map to get the system fully converted.

Techwire: What are the top two or three priorities for the county IT department in the next 12 months? The next two years?

Dupuis: For the next 12 months we are focused on:

      • Strengthening our cybersecurity program.  
      • Digital transformation to enable greater productivity and collaboration anytime, anywhere and on any device. 
      • Workplace modernization and the change management required to implement.

        For the next two years:
      • Modernization of our legacy telephony system
      • Radio system modernization from FDMA (Frequency-Division Multiple Access) to TDMA (Time-Division Multiple Access)
More work on the modern workspace, collaboration and digital transformation.

Techwire: What’s the best way for IT vendors to track opportunities so they don’t miss a chance to do business with Alameda?

Dupuis: ​Our procurement website shows all opportunities and provides a portal for vendors to sign up for alerts on new RFIs/RFPs.

Techwire: One of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first decrees was to propose a major change in the IT procurement process — from the traditional Request for Information (RFI) model to what he calls “RFI2,” a Request for Innovative Ideas. With the emphasis in the past year on cooperation between the California Department of Technology and the state’s 58 counties, what effect, if any, do you expect to see at the county level as a result of the switch to RFI2? ​

Dupuis: It is to early to understand what this will bring to California counties.  The counties often are able to leverage state-procured contracts. Any innovation in the procurement space will benefit all of us.

Techwire: Last year, your IT Department renovated an old building and repurposed it as the county’s new IT headquarters. How much did that cost — and how much did it save in efficiency, consolidation, etc.?

Dupuis: We had a $13 million budget to renovate the building including major infrastructure improvement to meet today's standards. We reduced the office space usage by 30 percent from the county standard. We consolidated four separate office spaces into one ITD location. There are no file cabinets and one printer per floor. We have converted to soft phones and laptops for activity-based workspace, which promotes a healthier and more creative environment.  The building is being certified LEED Gold, driving energy efficiency. And there are soft savings through casual collisions that have led to rapid problem resolution and collaboration.

Techwire: Roughly how much does Alameda County plan to spend this year on IT hardware, software, services, licenses and consultants? How many people work in Alameda County IT?

Dupuis: Central IT has 220 resources and an $80 million budget. This funds staff, hardware, software, services, licenses, consultants, data center and facilities.  A full breakdown of our budget can be found on budget.acgov.org.

Techwire: You’re also the registrar of voters for Alameda County. With election integrity and security coming to the forefront in the past couple of years, what are the advantages of the CIO and registrar positions being held by the same person? What are the potential conflicts in your roles?

Dupuis: ​Elections in California are all paper-driven. We use technology to drive efficiencies in the processing of the elections and the management of our voter rolls.

Technology also plays a major role in our outreach and education programs.  As the ROV/CIO I can bring an understanding of both professions together. As for potential conflicts, there has to be a balance between what we are capable of doing with technology and what the election code will permit. The election code is protecting the integrity of the process. It provides a balance as we look at technology innovations that can help with the efficiency of the process.

Techwire: You’ve just taken over as president of the California County Information Services Directors Association (CCISDA). What is your mission for your (one- or two-year?) term? What are the top two or three priorities for CCISDA as an organization in the coming year?​

Dupuis: I have been on the Board for four years, moving up through the ranks. I am the president for this year and then will move to the immediate past president position. One of my most important initiatives is to continue to promote the collective CCISDA membership. All the counties, large or small, are faced with the same technology challenges. Modernization, digital transformation, hiring and retaining talent, budget constraint, technology adoption and vendor relationships are equally challenging. As a collective, we can attack these issues together.

Techwire: Are there any lessons that you’ve learned in Alameda County that are translatable to your colleagues in CCISDA?

Dupuis: ​Absolutely. And there are lessons that Alameda County can learn from all of our peers. We have to leverage our collective knowledge and experience. That is why we believe in CCISDA, CCISDA small groups, and the relationships that we have been able to build. 

Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.