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Q&A: Roseville CIO Hong Sae Discusses City’s Future Plans

The city of Roseville’s IT Department has a new building and now a new mandate to extend beyond legacy replacement and tech modernization. Techwire sat down with Roseville CIO Hong Sae to discuss procurement and resident services. Hong has been with the city for almost seven years. Hong discussed how the city funded the new IT building, plans for the next year and previous success.

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The city of Roseville’s IT Department has a new building and now a new mandate to extend beyond legacy replacement and tech modernization. The department has moved from a classic break-fix-repair model to a business information services future as it serves every part of the city’s daily infrastructure. Techwire sat down with Roseville CIO Hong Sae to discuss procurement and resident services. Hong has been with the city for almost seven years. Hong discussed how the city funded the new IT building, plans for the next year and previous success.

Techwire: You have been with the city of Roseville for several years now, but tell me how the new building we’re sitting in came to be.

Hong Sae: As you probably know, Roseville is a full-service city, so that means we have public safety, police and fire, parks, development services, public works, transit; more importantly, we also have electric and water. We were put in the basement and at ground level [in our old building] for a long, long time. So since my arrival, about seven years ago, it was a goal to find a new home for IT folks out there. [Hong pointed out of his office’s window toward the old location.] We went to four different architectural firms, designing what we envisioned IT’s new home would look like, but we never had the complete funding.

The city manager came on board, the chief financial officer came on board. The first thing that came to mind was a public-private partnership. So the second floor of this building is Sierra Community College, they’re moving in in June. The fourth floor in the back area is all the IT and data centers, and the front areas are all commercial. So the rent that Sierra College is paying, and the rent from the restaurants and coffee shop, supplements the payments for the offices up here.

TW: What is your server area like? How big is it?

HS: Traditionally people build data centers that would probably be about 20,000 square feet: You have all the servers put together. The city runs about 270 applications, 41 percent of our applications, it’s all in the cloud.

TW: What cloud service do you use?

HS: Microsoft cloud services is predominantly what we use. You have a few out there, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, IBM and some proprietary stuff, and Microsoft is the only one that is being certified by CJIS [Criminal Justice Information Services] and also the electrical reliability councils, homeland security and also the local attorney general’s office bless all the information that is put out there.

TW: What kind of interactions do you have with the city? What scale of IT does the centralized department bring to the city?

HS: Technology, as you know, with globalization has the most recent impact especially in the last 10 years. At first, a typical organization would look at IT as break-fix, so you have a cellphone problem, printer, networking connectivity issue, they would call you. Then came traditional data processing: “Can you run this report for us?” Then comes management information services. Ultimately, though, we are now in the service arena. We do all those things. We partner with departments, state, local and federal entities out there. We provide business solutions, the most cost-effective and efficient ways for our business partners and residents to conduct business.

TW: What are the department’s top three goals?

HS: People who have worked with me over the last seven years know that my focus is people. “People” means investing in our team, being able to allow them to do the job, letting them have the right skill sets, challenging them, not just allowing them to fail but allowing them to learn as well. That’s the first P.

The second P is Process. I mentioned it’s about providing the best, effective solutions for our groups out there. Process changes, continuous improvements, continuous learning is very critical for our organization.

The last part is Performance. If you’ve got good people and good processes, you’ll ultimately have results, which is performance.

TW: What are your top three challenges?

HS: We put together strategic plans for our department and the organization. Before we do, we have to look at the Council goals because they represent the community. Many IT departments in many agencies don’t know how to align with the Council. In Roseviile, we have a three-year plan that is set up with all the strategic primary focuses. The other challenge is the state legislative process. State CIOs in Texas, where I came from, are constantly in the Legislature testifying, ‘If you put this bill together, how will it affect us?’ Sometimes these are called unfunded mandates, so how do we work collaboratively together? The other challenge at the legislative level is federal liabilities. Have you seen any federal help to protect your cybersecurity? If we’re talking about being an innovative country, we need to start putting efforts into digital technologies. If you look at IT in Roseville, we have to grow leadership: 25 percent of us are eligible to retire in the IT arena. Another 25 percent of us have another seven to 10 years to go. There’s 50-60 percent of us who are millennials. We created leadership challenges. We partner with Sac State, Sierra College. Placer County and Sacramento are joining us.

Our third challenge is, the community is changing. If we continue to budget based on internal information, we’re doing it wrong. People used to go out to town hall meetings. The city of Roseville is taking it to the next level. We’re doing a community priority and action advisory committee on social engagement toolsets.

TW: What does social engagement look like?

HS: So you put your budgets out. This is what department A is spending, department B. Then you drill down to each expenditure by charge accounts. So now the community can see how every expenditure lines up with Council goals. Now everyone can see that without coming to the town hall meetings. They can leave notes and commentary. It will be a dashboard, it will be a website where they can see the information. The goal is that we’ll be constantly putting information out there. The committee will start in July, so we hope the program will be available for that too.

TW: Where is the money for that coming from?

HS: The programs and the process will be funded by the Strategic Improvement Plan. If it works well, it will be a continuous improvement for the city.

TW: What other procurements are you looking at?

HS: ERP is one. Enterprise Resource Planning, which is one of our biggest business process transformation projects. It’s currently 26 years into its lifespan. It will change the way all city departments operate their business. The other big project is automated, advanced metering infrastructure. That’s what we’re working on, bringing consumers information to decide when is the best time to consume infrastructure. We’ll be turning to an advanced, automated metering infrastructure (AMI) in the next two years. The technology has been maturing over the last 10 years, and we’ve waited a couple rounds to make sure we don’t have the problems others have. The third infrastructure project we’re working on is radio. The radios you see out there are very expensive, about $5,000 apiece. We’re facing it being outdated, end of life and end of support. So all those projects: late May for ERP, June for radio, and then July/ August for AMI. Those are the only systems we have left to modernize.

TW: What’s farther out on the horizon?

HS: IT is now moving to a business intelligence and analytics environment. We’re doing things like connecting restaurant licensing to the Yelp app so they can offer that information to consumers. It’s about the Internet of All Things connectivity. We took IT from back office to front office to the partnership.

Here's a deeper look at the IT budget in Roseville for the upcoming fiscal year:


Kayla Nick-Kearney was a staff writer for Techwire from March 2017 through January 2019.