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Bill Oates, CIO, City of Boston

  • June 25 2012, 7:29pm EDT

After five-plus years as CIO to Boston's longstanding mayor, Bill Oates has the look and style of a man who thrives in the nonstop lifestyle of big city politics. Where that image diverges is in his approach to technology and attracting talent to support his city and citizen constituency of users.

Oates left his CIO role at Starwood Hotels to take a dream job, a cabinet-level position that gave him access and visibility that more than made up for a lack of IT groundwork. 

“There was an enterprise resource planning foundation,” he says, but the city was predictably fragmented in public safety, education and public works that called for fiber networks and data platforms to build something that better could serve up information.

In a city that understands the value of intellectual property, Oates leveraged relationships and the mayor’s leadership from an inherited budget of less than $1 million to more than $25 million. “It allowed us to build out networks and systems and that put us in position to innovate more aggressively in constituent services also,” Oates related. “It helps what the mayor is interested in, which is how to take care of a kid in a school or a neighborhood or the stuff that happens on the street.”

A 200-plus location fiber network helped tie departments to enterprise systems and uncovered civil servants looking for more technology to use on the job. An acclaimed program called Citizens Connect brings apps to consumers who now report 20 percent of pothole and broken device reports through the service. City vehicles are using the accelerometers in smartphones to track their routes, and citizens are being piloted to do the same for themselves. 

“We literally skipped a generation, we have public works workers who didn’t have a computer in their yard but now they have smart phones and on the receiving end of that pothole request and they are clamoring for more.”

Quotable: “The fear factor was that some really excited passionate people who would come into government and get stuck somewhere where they were not doing anything interesting or carrying the load for a lot of other people and they’d soon be gone. With the mayor’s help we have been able to help foster and nurture those people.”

Read about the next 2012 honoree.

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