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A Closer Look: Robert von Wolffradt

Chief information officer, state of Iowa


Robert von Wolffradt had no Iowa ties before taking the job as the state’s chief information officer. But he was sold, in part, on the people. “It didn’t take long to figure out that there are some really good people here doing good things,” von Wolffradt said. In his most recent position as the chief information officer for the state of Wyoming, he installed the first cloud email system of any state in the nation. He has also spent time as the director of informational services in Snohomish County, Wash., as the chief operating officer of SchoolKit.com in Bellevue, Wash., and he served in the U.S. Air Force.

What attracted you to this position?

The opportunity to improve technology and innovation, and turn that into faster, cheaper services to citizens. Similar to my role in Wyoming, the state is in the right place, where there’s a great group of people here trying to make an awful lot of change, trying to innovate and figure out ways they can get services faster and better to citizens, and take advantage of new technology – mobile apps, for one. The state has a variety of agencies, a number of working services, a number of constituent groups. All of those require some focus on technology and innovation, trying to develop what’s the most efficient way to get that technology introduced to the state, helping businesses in the state work better.

What exactly is the job description of the state CIO?

It’s got some strategic, some tactical (and) some operational (aspects). It would be the senior leader in the state for technology. Service directly to the governor, but also working with the legislative and judicial branches to figure out what similarities we can employ and what efficiencies we can gain across the branches of government. (The job is) mainly focused on how to help the agencies deliver on technology faster. That’s where the governor’s focus is too: Improve the services. And do it in a very cost-effective manner.

What are your goals?

I’m in the discovery phase now, talking to a lot of agencies. A lot of agencies are doing phenomenal work. What I’d like to do is try to take the best of the best and see if we can’t turn those across the state and evolve or deploy those to other agencies that haven’t done those things, that haven’t had the money to do those things or the resources. So there’s pockets of excellence, which I’m identifying now. I think there’s a couple of really big strategic ideas that have come to the forefront in the discovery stage. One of them is, when a citizen goes to the state for something, they are not really concerned where that service is coming from, as far as which agency. What they are concerned about is getting the best response and figuring out who they have to talk to, what forms they need and those type of things. One of the strategies is to look at those across the broad spectrum of agencies and figure out how we can tie those together.

I think the other thing is involving business in the strategic technology vision for the state. So there’s a technical advisory committee that the governor is currently in the process of appointing members to. Some of those will come from business. So we think it’s really important to involve the business leadership and have them help us find the state’s future in technology and how we use it.

What have been your first impressions of Des Moines?

Very, very positive. There’s a real sense of community here that you don’t see everywhere. There is a sense of interest, and care, and concern. You can see culture coming in, in different parts of that. There is a lot to see and do here. It is more close-knit than some of the places I’ve been.

What do you do outside work?

I read a lot. I like strategy games like chess. We spend time outdoors whenever we can. In Washington state, we had Puget Sound on one side and mountains on the other. We’ve lived all over the country. So we generally try to take advantage of the outdoors. Time with family and reading, keeping current on what’s going on in the world and in technology are probably my top – I don’t know if you’d call them hobbies, but that’s where I spend my time.

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