Former fed Bhagowalia takes on Hawaii's IT transformation

Hawaii is in the throes of a comprehensive initiative to modernize its IT infrastructure. Three months on the job, CIO Sanjeev “Sonny” Bhagowalia is juggling multiple projects as he gears up to lead the Aloha State through this journey.

The first phase of Hawaii’s IT transformation initiative was completed at the end of September with the release of findings from a baseline assessment conducted by Science Applications International Corp. The state also released a companion Benchmarking Report and Administrative Directive, which gives Bhagowalia authority to deal with the myriad challenges the state faces.

Using the findings and recommendations contained in the report, Bhagowalia, who began as CIO in July 2011, and the Office of Information Management and Technology will now develop a comprehensive, statewide information management and technology strategic plan, which is anticipated to be delivered in July 2012.


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Gov. Neil Abercrombie named Bhagowalia, formerly the deputy associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, Hawaii’s first full-time CIO in June. He has served as CIO for multiple federal agencies, including the  Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education.

During the next phase of the IT initiative, Bhagowalia’s team will identify the first 20 percent of work that the state should tackle during the transformation and determine how much funding will be needed to complete those tasks, Bhagowalia said earlier this month during an interview with GCN at the National Association of State Chief Information Officer’s conference in Denver. The challenge is to efficiently provide 200 services throughout the state across 18 agencies, he added.

The master plan is one project. Another area is “triage projects,” those “that are dying on the side of the road that have to be taken care of,” Bhagowalia said. For instance, the state’s Microsoft Active Directory and domain name directory need improvements so state employees can be more easily found within the system. Many departments have their own e-mail systems, “so how do you find each other?” he asked. “It’s a basic thing: If you don’t have that, you can’t provide some of the new services.”

Bhagowalia’s team is also examining ways to improve cost of projects and looking at how to make sure strategic projects such as broadband, health IT and education systems are successful. He doesn’t have all the staff needed to confront some of the challenges yet, but he is looking to draw resources from other areas such as the Information Communications Services Division.

Although various aspects of state IT might be different from the federal side, Bhagowalia said he expects to deal with issues such as cloud computing and data center consolidation. Hawaii does have some redundant data centers that should be consolidated, he added.

“We have a very busy plan, and we are going to do a parallel approach,” Bhagowalia said. “So we have a convoy of things going on at the same time.”



About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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