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Tampa CIO: ‘I Am a Technology Solutions Broker’

As part of Industry Insider — Florida’s efforts to educate readers on state and local government, their IT plans and initiatives, here’s the first in our periodic series of interviews with departmental IT leaders.

Russell Haupert is the chief information officer and chief technology officer for the city of Tampa. He has more than 20 years of private- and public-sector IT experience, including serving as director of IT services for Peoria County, Ill., and director of information and technical services for HTE Inc., now part of CentralSquare Technologies.

During his time with Peoria County, Haupert directed a team of 25 with a budget of $11 million, executed an emergency ERP implementation and replaced the county’s finance HR payroll system in 90 days. He also consolidated the county’s data center and server and transferred over new versions of Windows, Exchange and SQL Server infrastructure.

Before that, at HTE Inc., he managed internal information services, external technical services and software change management divisions. He also increased the organization’s scale from $40 million to $100 million during his four-year tenure from 1997 to 2001.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Florida Atlantic University.

Industry Insider — Florida: As CIO of your organization, how do you describe your role? How have the role and responsibilities of the CIO changed in recent years?

Haupert: I am a technology solutions broker charged with knowing what my customers need and delivering systems that amplify our employees' ability to deliver in their respective business units. While I’ve heard some CIOs talking about a recent focus on knowing and understanding their customer’s business, this has been the case for most of us in the role.

IIFL: In your tenure in this position, which project or achievement are you most proud of?

Haupert: While I could name some specific projects or awards, I’m proud of four major changes in how we do business during my tenure: reorganizing our services around our major departments; instituting regular customer meetings to report on results; transparently posting metrics that back up our project, service and uptime results; and lastly, the overall change from the in-house, mainframe development shop to [the] cloud/SaaS/mobile-first enterprise we are today.

IIFL: What projects will you be looking to fund in the upcoming fiscal year?

Haupert: We’re looking to improve our recruitment capabilities, an upgrade to our remaining internal data center capabilities and, as always, continued improvements to our security posture.

IIFL: What big initiatives or projects are coming up? What development opportunities and RFPs should we watch for in the next six to 12 months?

Haupert: For the most part, we’re going to finish chewing on some of the projects we already have in the process: the replacement of our agenda management system, an upgrade to our time and attendance system, a new customer relationship management system and a new computerized maintenance management system for our utility department.

IIFL: How do you define “digital transformation”? How far along is your organization in that process, and how will you know when it’s finished?

Haupert: Here at the city, digital transformation aligns with our broader aspirational tech goal — allow our citizens, customers or suppliers to do business with us in their preferred mode at their preferred time with as limited an understanding of our internal processes as possible. In that regard, we’re always moving forward.

IIFL: How often do you update your organization’s enterprise catalog?

Haupert: With some 29 departments needing systems and services, the catalog is constantly evolving.

IIFL: What is your estimated IT budget, and how many employees do you have? What is the overall budget?

Haupert: Technology and Innovation Information Services has a $34 million budget with 128 employees. This is part of a $1.9 billion total city budget, with 4,900 employees.

IIFL: What do you read to stay abreast of government technology/SLED sector developments?

Haupert: Online, we’re customers of Gartner and Info-Tech; I rely on LinkedIn and a variety of government-focused organizations to keep up to date.

IIFL: What do you think is the greatest technology challenge in Florida?

Haupert: Challenges tend to vary with organizations, but right now for government, it’s funding, finding, training and retaining our technology workforce.

IIFL: What advice would you give someone who would like to lead an IT department?

Haupert: Remember who your customers are and treat them like they have a choice for where to get their services … because they do.

IIFL: If you could change one thing about IT procurement, what would it be?

Haupert: I’m always looking for a process that appropriately balances speed, transparency, equity and cost. In general, it’s great when the time to fund, approve and select a new system takes significantly less time than implementing them.

IIFL: How do you prefer to be contacted by vendors, including via social media such as LinkedIn?

Haupert: I never mind a vendor reaching out on LinkedIn, but that’s a high-traffic environment. Find me there, but reach out to me through the city’s formal channels.

IIFL: How might vendors best educate themselves before meeting with you?

Haupert: LinkedIn and the city of Tampa’s website.

IIFL: What professional or affinity groups do you belong to? Do you volunteer, and would you like to share that experience with readers?

Haupert: I’ve been involved in the business applications and technology community at multiple levels. I’m an advisory board member for the Florida Digital Government Summit* (2019-present). I’m also a supporting member of the Society for Information Management (SIM Tampa Bay), the Florida Local Government Information Systems Association and GMIS International.

IIFL: What conferences do you attend?

Haupert: There are so many that I’d like to attend, but there’s a few I try not to miss: the FLGISA annual conference for keeping up with the IT crowd in Florida’s local governments, the Florida Digital Government Summit and the Florida IT Leadership Forum* where I get to see what’s happening in Tallahassee and the many agencies we work with.

IIFL: What are you reading or listening to for fun? What do you do to unplug in your downtime?

Haupert: I’m currently reading and loving the latest Sigma Force novel, Tides of Fire by James Rollins — his books are not the kind you fall asleep reading. As to unplugging, my wife and I have been training for the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. this October, and we both find running to be a great way to escape.

*The Florida Digital Government Summit, Florida IT Leadership Forum and Industry Insider — Florida are part of e.Republic.
Katya Diaz is an Orlando-based e.Republic staff writer. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University.