How state CIO James Collins is changing Delaware's tech department - Technical.ly Delaware

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Apr. 22, 2015 12:32 pm

How state CIO James Collins is changing Delaware’s tech department

Collins says his position is “the coolest job to have.” Expect a stronger push around open data soon.

Legislative Hall in Dover.

(Photo by Flickr user Mike Mahaffie, used under a Creative Commons license)

James Collins loves process management. He loves it so much, he actually makes it sound cool. Better yet, he fell in love with it while studying to be a dental technician in the Air Force.

“I took this special duty assignment to teach total quality management,” said Collins. “I told my then-fiancé, ‘I don’t want to go to dental school now. I want to do organizational development.'”

That led to a job as a deputy fleet administrator with the state, where he implemented software to improve fleet management. After leaving the public sector for a job with Peregrin Systems, Collins jumped back into state work under Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock.

James Collins

CIO James Collins. (Photo via delaware.gov)

While in that position, Collins worked with the Department of Technology and Information and the Government Information Center quite often. With GIC director Mike Mahaffie, Collins helped implement the veteran services directory before being promoted again to Gov. Jack Markell’s deputy chief of staff.

But last October, Collins was called upon to replace the state’s Chief Information Officer, Jim Sills.

Collins’ first job is to fulfill Executive Order #20: consolidate and optimize statewide IT services to make processes more efficient and cost-effective.

“DTI has been what I call a ‘core service provider’ — email, network, mainframe support and hosting service,” Collins said in a recent interview with Technical.ly Delaware. DTI is responsible for managing email networks for every state agency (nearly 1 billion emails were sent last year alone) and mainframes for health and social services, elections, public safety and the corporation information system that brings in a large chunk of Delaware’s revenue every year.

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“It’s the coolest job to have,” Collins said. In fact, he compares his department to a car engine.

“I bought a car I really liked and realized afterwards I had never looked under the hood,” Collins said. He looked at the paint, the interior, tires and rims — he even tooled with the sound system. About eight months after buying the car, he realized he had never looked under the hood. “Everything seemed to be so smooth on the surface that everything had to be good under the hood.”

Now, DTI isn’t just a core service provider for state agencies. It’s consolidating state resources by bringing agencies’ servers into a secure data center, onboarding their application developers and generally managing every aspect of their technologies. To date, DTI has virtualized 1,400 servers to a private cloud.

And Collins sees open data as an “opportunity.”

“I think we can [release datasets] in a more comprehensive way by producing the data in multiple formats so it can be machine readable for other people to build applications off of,” he said. Right now, DTI is in talks with its data management board to propose a multi-disciplinary structure that will publish data systematically.

“I want to do it in a more consolidated way,” he said. “So people can go to the state’s data portal, search by agency and go directly to the data that’s available for that agency. I’m excited about that.”

Collins said that Delawareans can look forward to seeing more information about their government made readily available through web and mobile.

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