print edition of Providence Business News
The office’s goal is to modernize state government through improved digital capabilities and expand and improve services provided to Rhode Islanders, according to the governor’s office.
Guertin discusses his new role, future initiatives and how he hopes to use technology to bring state government, citizens and businesses closer together.
GUERTIN: I’m truly excited to work with not only the government agencies but public and private industries throughout the state to help move services to the public as well as businesses and to figure out the right approach.
The nice thing about Rhode Island and being in this type of role is that I think it can be a great test bed. To get out and speak to all the different constituencies and stakeholders and be able to go through testing and beta phase and have some trial and error and have a number of different groups be a part of the process.
PBN: You had been with The New York Times Co. since 2003; how has that prepared you for this position?
GUERTIN: I think, like state government, by working for a big company like that, that has multiple units and a parent holding company, I have an understanding of the many roles involved. It teaches you solid project management and how to present whether at the executive level or the end-user level, to be able to present in the correct fashion and at the right level of detail.
PBN: You’re responsible for launching the Office of Digital Excellence, what’s going to go into that?
GUERTIN: The office itself, I think, the main mission is to advance technology within state government and foster and promote that in the business and social community. We’ll also provide some strategic vision and approach to be able to roll out new technology projects in a structured and operationally standard way.
Part of this role is to provide that vision and strategy behind large enterprise projects and new technology projects in state government. With that comes oversight and project-management skills that need to be applied when you roll out enterprise relations.
PBN: How big is the Office of Digital Excellence going to be?
GUERTIN: Right now, I’m just looking at a couple of technology-project managers, but I’m not sure how big the office is going to be in the end. I think the state took a great leap forward in creating this office and we need to do the due diligence to figure out how to raise the level of skills both internally and seek it elsewhere when we need to.
PBN: What are some examples of the different projects you and the office are tasked with?
GUERTIN: We’re looking at the health care exchange and the new health care initiatives, as well as an integrated tax system and the DMV work as well.
We also want a more cohesive and distinct approach to all the Rhode Island websites. Bring it together, make it simpler for all the businesses and Rhode Islanders to utilize and have simpler design sense. The same goes for social media and digital-services sites.
PBN: Are the things that you’re going to be doing completely new initiatives or have they been done under a different office up to now?
GUERTIN: I think it’s a blend. There’s definitely some projects that have been in the works for a long time that they’re looking to get a fresh set of eyes on and new initiatives, and ideas that I have as well. And ideas that hopefully other businesses have.
PBN: What is the biggest challenge you face upgrading Rhode Island’s digital infrastructure?
GUERTIN: In the short term, it will be understanding the current state and what’s occurring and has occurred over the past few years and how we can utilize those internal resources. I think the challenge is going to be how I can forge that relationship between the state government and the business and public communities.
PBN: What are you most looking forward to in this new position?
GUERTIN: I’d like to go out and meet with the business leaders and the public to determine what the needs are. I think that there’s an opportunity to be able to speak to the public to small and large businesses and I’ve already been in contact with a few of them to have an open and knowledge-sharing relationship with state government that this office will foster.
I also want to open the developer community that comes from different areas, whether it be high school, college, entrepreneurial, big business or people in their homes. I’d love to have, in the near future, certain events and opportunities and hack days to bring the Rhode Island developer community together.
As Rhode Island determines how it can grow, technology can provide infrastructure, and the efficiencies provided through that technology can make a real difference.