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Santa Barbara County Launches Separate IT Department

Deploying a standalone IT department that is distinct from the General Services division will enable the coastal local government to “be more strategic and innovative in how it operates and serves its constituents,” Chief Information Officer Chris Chirgwin said.

The county of Santa Barbara took a significant step forward in its IT operations last week with the official launch of a standalone Information Technology Department (ITD). The move marks a pivotal transition, as the IT operations were formerly housed under the General Services division.

Chief Information Officer Chris Chirgwin, who joined the county in September, will lead the newly minted department.

“The county is aiming to be more strategic and innovative in how it operates and serves its constituents, with data-driven decision-making a priority along with reducing departmental silos and having a dedicated IT department with direct access to county leadership will enable better collaboration and more effective strategic planning,” Chirgwin explained. “It will also allow the county to centralize more multi-departmental services including GIS, ERP support, cybersecurity, broadband initiatives and project management.”

County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato cited the expanding role technology is playing in daily operations and in delivering constituent services.

“As part of the county’s Renew Initiative to transform our organization, we needed to elevate IT by having a Chief Information Officer to provide strategic IT leadership and to leverage IT more effectively across the entire county,” Miyasato said in a press release.

The Renew Initiative was launched in 2017 to address financial and organizational challenges within the government body by redesigning and rebalancing resources.

The county will now be implementing a hybrid approach — centralizing multi-departmental services while keeping many department-specific solutions and specialists in their departments, according to Chirgwin.

“The new Information Technology Department will be adding several new roles to improve service delivery, departmental collaboration, strategic planning and enhance security,” he said. “These roles include an enterprise architect, business relationship manager, service delivery manager and security operations manager. Once these roles are fully implemented, we will see regular collaboration with all departments, a new five-year IT strategic plan developed, and improved governance for data, applications, policies, and standards.”

“This will improve both internal and external operations, and ultimately positively impact citizen engagement,” Chirgwin said.

The county is also working on the implementation of a new ERP system from Workday and an upgrade to the county’s public safety radio network.

“Emerging technologies and digital transformation are ever evolving and require an environment where learning, planning, research and a commitment to staying current are prioritized,” Chirgwin said. “Technology, when used strategically and thoughtfully, can have a significant return on investment, helping local government better serve its constituents.”

This story first appeared in Government Technology magazine, Industry Insider — California’s sister publication.
Ashley Silver is a staff writer for Government Technology magazine.