When the Wake County Continuum of Care decided to pursue a homeless management information system, a project led by the county’s Human Services Department, Wake County CIO Lib Wanner asked herself a question now familiar to CIOs: What is the appropriate role for a CIO during a departmental IT project? For Wanner it meant ceding the day-to-day responsibility to the Human Services IT staff, but carving out a niche where she could offer some targeted strategic guidance at the points, mostly around planning, where the project percolated up to the county level, as these projects inevitably will at times.
Wanner is cochair of the Wake County’s e-government steering committee, which must approve every business application project the county undertakes. “My first job is to help people prepare proposals,” she says. “I can vet the project and help make sure that they detailed enough scope.” Wanner also helps the departmental IT people develop a project timetable, budget and reporting structure, and a formal close-out meeting two months after a project has finished.
It is crucial to remember, however, that it is a departmental project, she says, and as such you have to let those people do their jobs. The departmental IT people know the terrain, the requirements and the users the best, and it is important to give them enough space to run the show. “I’m just there to make sure they aren’t missing anything,” she says.