Delaware CIO Greg Lane brought his 30-plus year career at DuPont and its chemical business to Dover when Gov. John Carney appointed him as new state CIO and director of the Department of Technology and Information (DTI) last June.
That experience covers a lot of ground, as prior to spinoffs five years ago, DuPont was the largest chemical company in the world.
No stranger to Delaware IT, Lane also served the last six years as state chief technology officer (CTO), a noteworthy development involving an old friend, former Delaware CIO and NASCIO president James Collins, who made it happen.
“Interestingly enough, while I was CIO at the Chemours Company, a DuPont spin-off, I met the then-current state CIO Collins. We actually met at the White House,” Lane told MeriTalk in an exclusive interview.
Fast forward a few years and Lane had left Chemours and was helping a small tech startup. “I had a meeting with the state CIO, and during that meeting, as I had retired from DuPont and was just learning a little about the state and he’s telling me about various boards and committees, I offered up that if you needed some help I’d be more than willing to sit on one of those.”
Some months later, Lane received a call from Collins saying he needed a CTO. “While it’s not the kind of salary I was used to, it’s all about public service. And quite honestly, I said, ‘You know, I can come for a year then I want to go back into the private sector.’”
Lane accepted the job and was pleasantly surprised by the talent and the people in state government, and their breadth of technology expertise. “People who don’t work in state government probably don’t have a reason to know how much happens every day behind the scenes to enable agencies to deliver the services for the citizens of any state, not just the state of Delaware,” he said.
That was in 2017, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. “And so it was all hands on deck to stand up systems for COVID, and you blink and six years had gone by when I was asked to do this state CIO role by the governor. And so I’m still here and probably will end my working career here at the State of Delaware.”
Before that happens, Lane has embarked on an auspicious plan to bring into play for the government his wealth of global corporate experience which he was able to acquire working in the private sector for 35 years. “Learning how to manage globally, how to operate in various geographies with diverse teams, managing large budgets, and a plethora of technologies along the way, that’s been extremely helpful for me in state government,” he said.
As director of DTI, Lane is also a member of Gov. John Carney’s cabinet, a distinction which has become increasingly rare in state government, according to Doug Robinson, executive director of NASCIO. Lane oversees DTI with a nearly $100 million budget in general and special funds.
However, while DTI is the central IT organization within the state with some 300 employees, there are many agencies that also have IT staff. Some of the staff that are co-located with agencies are actually part of DTI.
“We have another 300 people or more at agencies that are not in my organization, and those 600 people can’t do everything that we do here,” Lane said. “So in the State of Delaware, we all make use of the very capable third-party companies that are in and around the state. It’s a combination of the core IT organization that I have and it’s complimentary. They sit in some of the agencies, but we have a third ring of resources. It’s our consultants, companies that help us implement large projects plus other enhancements or support,” Lane said.
But in reality, he believes his budget is not large enough. “We’re a generally funded organization. The budget is about $65 million, plus we have a capital request of another $30 million.” But in order to scale as agencies want to do more, DTI often has to have those agencies have their own budget to do those things. “So when I talk about just my budget, for the State of Delaware, it doesn’t get all done on just my budget.”
One of the things DTI is exploring is to really fine-tune their ability to charge back mostly so DTI can pay for things that aren’t generally funded. It’s the age-old cost allocation dilemma. Lane believes the state has to develop a chargeback system that makes that clearly understandable.
“That is because some Delaware agencies think, ‘Well, you’re a budgeted part of the general fund. So when my agency wants to do a project it should be free.’” And as Lane explained, “There’s an awful lot of technology that doesn’t stand still, an awful lot of modernization initiatives that are planned, and to the extent that DTI can participate in that, it’s a real challenge.”
Despite these funding issues, Lane outlines his ambitious goals for 2024 and beyond including more centralization of IT, expanding shared services and exploring new automation tools, migrating the mainframe out of their data center, modernizing their ERP environment including HR systems and financials plus the system that handles pensions. “One of the things we’re really excited about is rolling out a portal for residents and visitors, a State of Delaware single sign-on portal, to enable a better user experience for acquiring state services,” Lane said.
“Where today we have many agencies that have very well-done websites and portals and you can get services from that agency, we want to combine the activity we have with single sign-on with a single portal and a single payment experience much like Amazon,” Lane said.
Delaware has done that with businesses. They aptly labeled it Business One-Stop. “We’re working on getting something very similar for residents and visitors to enable a growing number of services and transactions to be accessible from a single portal,” he said.
I mentioned reading that his boss, Gov. Carney, says Delaware will be the first state with universal broadband access and Lane told me DIT will play a major supporting role as well.
How’s that for an aggressive IT plan?