Wash. CIO Michael Cockrill on improving the citizen experience


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Washington Chief Information Officer Michael Cockrill is leading a modernization effort at the state to create a more personalized government that interacts with citizens in the ways they’ve become accustomed to in the private sector.

Cockrill, a noted Seattle entrepreneur and former Microsoft executive, wants to modernize not only the technology the state uses, but create a stronger and more streamlined relationship with its citizens by altering the culture of state technology.

“Given the broader trend toward consumerization, it’s only reasonable that states would want to create experiences like users have with Amazon, Google or Microsoft,” Cockrill said. “There’s a push in state governments toward more personalized governments, and I think Washington is on the leading edge of that wave.”

Cockrill has a long history of success in the private sector, notably as the co-founder of tech startups PhotoRocket and Atlas Networks and was part of the executive team at Qpass Corp. Along with working in management positions at Microsoft, he was an entrepreneur in residence at the University of Washington Center for Commercialization.

Cockrill highlighted initiatives including the creation of a one-stop portal for business information as opportunities to make state government more personal.

He pointed to three main areas ripe for modernization:

  • Outdated systems: Cockrill said it’s key for the technology to be modern, depending on the needs of that system. For example, the backend of the state’s revenue systems should run on a commercial off-the-shelf solution on a modern platform while consumer-facing systems should have mobile capabilities.
  • Mobile: It’s not about just allowing users to access data on their phone, but having an internal focus to create a mobile workforce, which is more complex of a problem.
  • Security: You cannot believe that bad actors cannot get into your network, but you must realize they are already there, Cockrill said, and then you need to be able to adjust accordingly.

When it comes to specific projects, Cockrill highlighted a few key initiatives: First, Washington is modernizing its revenue collection and business licensing systems, changing platforms with custom code for a more standard and user-friendly COTS program.

Cockrill said the state is also in the early stages of doing a new enterprise resource planning system (the program is currently in the research portion) and instituting a major security package the state legislature passed in the last budget to help manage its network.

Along with pushing those three pillars of personalization, Cockrill is promoting a culture of agility within the state government.

“When I first came to Olympia my initial survey was there was not much agile thinking,” Cockrill said, “but as I’ve spent more time working I’ve realized there are numerous pockets of agility within the traditional state government set-up. My goal and my intent is to spend a lot of my personal time fostering this agility.”

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cybersecurity, Michael Cockrill, Microsoft, Mobility, States, Tech News, Washington