• shane@countryexec.com
  • Seguin, Texas
Country IT 2022: Revisiting A New Mindset For Technology Success

Country IT 2022: Revisiting A New Mindset For Technology Success

2022 has been a whirlwind, actually a little crazy I’d say. The days have piled onto one another leading to weeks and months passing by. Cautiousness around spending of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding delayed several technology initiatives for my organization that we would have typically jumped on much sooner. That said I wanted to follow up on one of my favorite previous posts and provide some updates on Country IT 2022, revisiting a new mindset for technology success.

Please know I am definitely not complaining. I am beyond grateful to be able to pursue these measures on behalf of my employer, but it did push these projects into our preparation for the next fiscal year budgeting which has had an impact. We’re more or less in the clear now, but it was tough sledding there for awhile. No matter, my team of Country IT all stars made it happen as they always do. Making that magic happen. Getting after it, getting it done like we do.

Country IT 2022

Like I said, 2022 has been a whirlwind. The big initiative on our plate for the current fiscal year was upgrading the last major piece of technology infrastructure yet to be addressed since I started my current role in 2018. The telecom infrastructure.

To say I was excited to knock this one out would be an understatement. My employer has invested millions in technology upgrades these past four plus years. I am so grateful for their support, for their receptiveness when I go to justify these major expenditures. I consider myself fortunate to be a part of such a forward thinking organization. What an honor. Sheesh…we’re out here killing it in rural Texas!

Our telecom platform was last upgraded more than a decade ago. As I alluded to, figuring out ARPA funding caused some delays which made things tough. The voicemail aspect to our telecom platform went end of life in April 2022. We had to get the entirety of our telecom infrastructure upgraded prior to that. We made it, but it wasn’t easy.

Country IT 2022 – Getting After It

Out of all the crazy projects my department has made happen these past few years, telecom kicked our tail a little. It wasn’t supposed to. We got all the financials worked out. Got approval from our City Council. Issued PO’s and got everything lined up. We thought we had it dialed in as per usual and planned for a short outage early one Thursday evening in the spring.

That small window turned into a 24 plus hour odyssey. I’ll spare you the technical mumbo jumbo, but one small oversight turned what should have been a ninety minute migration into an overnighter. Long story short we were a single IP, think one number off, on one of those new infrastructure pieces that caused massive problems for us.

An honest mistake. It happens. No matter though. We’re Country IT. A bunch of good ole’ boys that aren’t about to let something get the better of us. We fought through the problems and as the crack of light was beginning to show the following day we pretty much had everything lined up on the new system. I’m so dang proud of my team. Tough guys. Don’t complain. Just get after it. They are awesome.

Country IT 2022 – Wins

Beyond the telecom infrastructure hurdles, we had a number of other initiatives taking place concurrently. If you can believe it, my band of Country IT all stars have either led or been involved with fifty-six initiatives thus far this fiscal year. That’s incredible, and a new record for our department.

We stood up a new division under IT for geographic information systems, more commonly known as GIS. After a nationwide search we brought in a GIS Manager that was ready to take that next step in his career, and he certainly has! My employer has never had public facing GIS prior to this year. Our new GIS Manager and first dedicated GIS employee started just prior to the new year, and the fun got underway immediately.

Country IT 2022 – GIS

I’ve never had anything to do with GIS in my career. Everything has been on a learning curve for me. Once our new GIS Manager was onboarded and we got past the holidays, first thing we did was sign an enterprise agreement with ESRI at no additional cost to the organization beyond what was already budgeted. I estimate that saved tax payers upwards of 140k by itself because of all of the server licensing that would have been required to build out the architecture.

In conjunction with the backend buildout the GIS Manager and I did what I affectionally referred to as a “GIS road show” across the organization. We sat down with stakeholders from each department to establish relationships, work order request processes, showed them what GIS could do, and brainstormed for ideas specific to their professional areas.

It was eye opening for me. I knew GIS was going to be a hit, but not to the extent it has been. It just goes to show you what hiring the right person can do. In April of 2022 after a presentation for our City Council, Open Data Seguin was shared with the public. It’s been a wonderful success. I believe we are just gaining steam on it too. We’ve ventured out and started speaking to the work being done. Recently we spoke to GIS and the powerful transparency capabilities at our local Rotary Club.

Country IT 2022 – Awards

With more than a dozen awards earned in the past four years, my organization is no stranger to recognition. For three years running my team of Country IT all stars have been recognized nationally. In 2020 it was StateScoop Magazines Local IT Innovation of the Year. In 2021 it was GMIS Internationals Government to Citizen Award. On May 31, 2022 it was announced my organization will be receiving the prestigious CSO50 award for cybersecurity.

CSO50 is a big deal. It recognizes security projects that demonstrate outstanding thought leadership and business value. What is really special about it for me is the fact my employer was the only government entity, local, state, or federal, to be recognized in 2022. Holy smokes. I’ll be flying to DC later this year to accept the award in person.

Make no mistake, I’m proud of what we do out here in rural Texas. I thought we were good, but not like that. My employer is listed right alongside some of the largest and most recognized corporate names in the world for this award. If that’s not punching above your weight class I don’t know what is. There’s some serious Country IT for you right there!

Country IT 2022 – Conclusion

The CSO50 award in itself is enough to declare a successful 2022 in my book, but we got a few more announcements up our sleeves coming soon (EDIT – BOOM!). In four days my org will be receiving two more national awards. Another one for cybersecurity and our first recognition for GIS oddly enough. I’ll post the link to the announcement when it is formally announced.

Another cool thing that happened a couple of months back was I got to speak at a local elementary about working in the IT field. I enjoyed engaging with the kiddos of all ages. You never know, our next Country IT all star could have been in the room.

One last great thing happened for me personally recently. After a few years of volunteering on committees, serving as chair, and being asked to join the organizational board, I was elected to join TAGITM’s executive board in April. I consider it an honor. TAGITM is the premier government IT organization in the state. A native Texan serving Texans. Yes sir!

I’m so appreciative for the votes, for the confidence in me. As I stated in the Country IT post from 2020, I will never do wrong by people that place their trust in me. And just like 2020, I’m going to say “hold my beer,” we got more work to do out here in rural America. Let’s get after it! Until next time thank you for reading, and please take care of yourselves and the ones you love.