EP 17: Leveraging Technology to Enable Citizen Engagement w/ Stephen Heard

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

With only about 450 people to run 20+ asset management systems for about 65 lines of business, there’s never a dull moment in IT for local government — especially during a pivot from project-based to product-based.

Recently on Unleash IT, we spoke with Stephen Heard, CTO at King County Department of Information Technology (KCIT), Washington, which encompasses the Seattle area.

Stephen and host André Christ spoke together about how IT helped local government deliver core essential services to citizens while bearing responsibility for about 65 different lines of business in the 12th largest county in the United States.

They also discussed digital transformation since March 2020, changes in consumer expectations, local government architecture, and an IT organization shift from project to product.

To hear this interview and many more like it, subscribe to the Unleash IT Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

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COVID actually made us, like hyper aware that this shift needed to occur, that we really need to think about and begin the shift into a product organization and adapt or adopt a product mindset. Welcome to unleash it, a podcast where we discussed the experiences and ideas behind what's working in enterprise architecture and digital transformation within the IT landscape. Unlock Your Business has digital capabilities. Transform your enterprise architecture. Unleash it. Let's get into the show. Welcome to this episode of the unleash it podcasts. Today it's my pleasure to welcome Stephen Hurt, the chief technology officer of King County. Welcome, Stephen. We would be this delighted to learn more about yourself, your job at Kin County, as well as any relevant prout industry experience you can share with all our listeners. So welcome to the show. Thanks for having me on right it's great to be here. Can you explain us a bit more about yourself and your job you have today? Yeah, sure, yeah, you bet so. I'm the chief technology officer at King County, which is in Washington state in the US, and it encompasses the Seattle area and what's also known as the east side, which a lot of your listeners will probably recognize. Bell you red men. So it's where the home of Amazon, Microsoft starbucks, really amazing natural environment, right on puget sound but within an hour's drive from the mountains and all kinds of hiking and winter sports and voting. It's a really amazing geographic physical location, incredible people. I grew up here, so it's really great to be able to work for local government and give back to place where I was, where I grew up, where I was raised. King County is one of the largest counties in the US. I think we're by population, maybe the twelve largest county in the US. And County government, you know, for those that don't aren't really connected to the local government in the US, county government runs a lot of really core essential services, especially in these pandemic times. You know, most, if not all counties in the US run public health agencies, so are responsible really for coordinating public health. King County is a pretty complex agency as well. So responsible for the public health piece, but we also run an international airport, pretty significant criminal justice. So you know, we operate to jails, several court system Superior Court District Court, solid waste, all kinds of parks, wastewater treatment. We run one of the largest transit agencies in the country. So really broad, diverse mines of business as kind of all coalescing together in one government entity. I think we have, last last count something like sixty five different lines of business that are that are managed and run within the county. Yeah, so it's big. FIFTEENZERO employees. Within the IT space where I work, I think we have probably four hundred and fifty staff. So supporting all these lines of business. So really interesting, really dynamic. We've been really stretched during the pandemic, but we've also been able to help our customers, you know, within local government, deliver core central services to the community and and manage the healthcare response to so it's really satisfying, really engaging work. We get to solve interesting problems every day and it's get to work with great folks too. So it's a lot of fun and and like challenging and exciting goods tough. Yeah, it's a fantastic opportunity for me today and for listeners to learn more about some of the initiatives you're driving forward and maybe as a start us some of my guests actually set and on that show some somewhe back.

He said like months and maybe years off digital transformation have actually been compressed into just a few weeks now during the pandemic, and I would love to understand how you look look at that, at if you look at the services you're providing the digital civic and engagement in the government in sector. Can you describe a bit what at what state that is today and maybe also what has changed over the last twelve months as an as an impact due to covid? Yeah, sure, yeah, it well, it's certainly true. I mean I completely agree that everything has like compressed and accelerated in the last fifteen months and we've just done things that we didn't think we're possible and in those time frames before before covid. So, for in here's an example of an example. So it we were a skype for business user pre pandemic and we had, I think, had been one of the first like skype for business implementers in local government back in the early teens, like around two thousand and two thousand and thirteen. I'm not sure if those dates are exactly right, but it was. We had been on skype for business frankly, from time and it was time for us to move. The pandemic kind of exposed some of the weaknesses or kind of you know, the skype was essentially a legacy product and we really needed to move to teams. Based on our last iteration from you know just standard old telephone system into skype. That took US years to complete. We're going to finish the skype to teams transition in a matter of months. So we'll be done with that start to finish, in about nine months, whereas the previous migration from you know phones to skype probably took two and a half years. So and really we got eighty we're getting eighty percent of that team's migration done in about for months. So that's an acceleration. Yeah, just how things are really compressing and just kind of the nature of the pandemic and the evolution of the healthcare response has really driven a lot of acceleration as well. So, you know, we went from not having a vaccine management solution in place to you know, manage reservations and vaccine administrations and follow ups and all that tracking to having one pretty much from the time we signed a contract with our vendor to the time we implemented and we're leveraging that solution was weeks. It was like three or four weeks, and so everything is compressing on the business side of delivering it, you know, business capability also, you know, are our kind of core or essential user base, the public, the folks that we serve. Ultimately, their expectations and needs are changing as well. So, you know, they're expecting their government to meet them where they're at, with tools that they have acts, you know, through tools and software that they can access via smartphones, tablets, you know, mobile devices, wherever they are, whenever they need it, and that's changing the nature of the it solutions that we are delivering as well. So it's not just the speed and the schedule compression that's occurring, it's also expectations are changing for how government delivers services through technology and how that increasingly needs to match their expectations of their experience of technology in the in the private sector or private sector solutions. What are some of the examples of like very innovative solutions you have builts in the recent years? We would say like, well, this has moved US forwards, shifted into much more self service. Maybe you have some examples. We we are then the like, the normal like from a from an end user perspective, you would notice. But what? What created some some significant effort on your end. Yeah, that's so a few things. I kind of hesitate really to call the stuff we're doing innovative,...

...because I mean it may be and it may be innovative in the government space, but what we're really trying to do primarily, I think, my opinion, is really synthesize what's happening outside of government in the technology space and understand how can how consumers interact with technology and tried it to implement what we're doing in smart ways that engage and users with the products and services and create kind of engaging experiences. So I'll give you another example in a sect. But really the innovation piece, and I'll throw air quotes Agron, that is us kind of shifting our mindset in it and and I think trying to drive that into the business of the organization is shifting from delivering digitization or automation or, you know, providing solutions to providing experiences. And here's an example. So we've had a county, one of our core lines of business, sponsored a I'll call it a payment modernization. I can't remember the technical project named for it, but essentially, you know, five, six seven years ago, if you wanted to do business with the county, pay for a permit by a birth certificate or a marriage license or going to pet license schedule and inspection, you had to almost literally and almost in every case, come into a physical location, sign up for something, talk to a person in a counter, write them a check. Maybe you could swipe a credit card or debit card, but you couldn't do a lot of that stuff online. Some you could, but most know and so we spent a number of years digitizing a lot of those processes, bringing them online, right, enabling customers in the public to be able to transact business with the county, and that was awesome. Right. We've made a lot of progress there, but we've given them two options, well, three, I guess, Debit Card, credit card or electronic check, and we've gotten about as far as we're going to get with that. And now it's o our belief that the public wants a little bit more right, and probably is used to having more options when they deal with solutions and providers outside the government space. So they have more payment options. Right, apple pay, Google pay, paypa Hey apal right, right, Amazon pay. You can probably talk to Alexai and pay for stuff. At this point, I'm pretty sure. Do you all to support Bitcoin? Well, I mean someday, I think. Right, we'll see. But so options matter and the experience matters too. So, as I mentioned at the todd local government is very diverse and has tens, if not sometimes hundreds, of distinct lines of business, all that have their own mode of interacting. They've all developed kind of their own way of connecting with the public, and so we think is really interesting, which isn't really new at all, but is really kind of, I think, understanding what's happening in the marketplace for technology and kind of kind of, we use a metaphor of a marketplace, is finding ways to connect all those opportunities and all that relationship up. So as a constituent or as a user or consumer of local government services, I can come, if I want, bring an identity and see the whole of my relationship. Right, I can see stuff where I have, where I'm paying for things like property taxes or pet licenses. But also I can I can subscribe and receive notifications around town halls or, you know, any type of interaction that's happening that's relevant. So creating kind of more of an online relationship right it's sort of feels like the next phase for what we're doing. That's not really I don't really view that as innovative per se, but it's it's a different way of thinking about how to leverage technology to enable citizen engagement and there I think there are some really interesting examples that we tend raw on. I think the UK government has done some interesting work and digital government. The federal government here in the US has done some some things, but...

...it's it's more difficult to find really great examples of that at like the local government level, especially at the county level, where you've got this really big kind of conglomeration of disparate business units that live together under one umbrella. What would you say in terms of the expectations your kind of users, or like your customers, of the solutions actually have? Is that like accelerated through like other experiences they have outside of outside of government side? If I think about like digital experiences you have today, so, for example now in in the town or in the in the city where we live here in bond you have like the local supermarkets which deliver in ten minutes to your home. Like we have here services lot called gorillas. I think there's go puff and other services. So like shopping in the supermarket is now moved into like okay, you can order with your smartphone. In ten minutes, someone is ringing, ringing the bell and and it's delivering it. And if I think about like how do I interact now with the local government here to like extend my past for parking in front of and front of farm or flat or whatever, it's like it's so complicated, takes like weeks and months. So, but I can shop in the supermarket and and someone is here in ten minutes. So is that making your life even harder these days to come up with good services, or is it inspiring you to think, yeah, some of the flows differently. So how would you? How do you think about it? Well, you almost have to, you almost have to reimagine, because I think, and I'm no expert, right, you know, I on on like you know, the kind of historical progression of government services and you know, I can imagine that. You know, government is long lived, right, and so a lot of processes that exist today artifacts and many, in many, in many examples of artifacts of, you know, non digital times, right, and so they evolved from paper based work flows, and so those can be challenging, right, and I think it's you almost have to make things to make things move at the speed that they need to move at in order. I mean, no one wants to interact with the digital process or an APP or a portal and have it take, you know, click a button and get a message that says will be back to you and two weeks kind of a thing, right. I mean the expectation is, if you're interacting with something online, that you're going to get immediate, not just immediate feedback, but you're going to under kind of understand that things are happening. Right. I mean that expectation is I click the button and I'm going to get a package in two days. If I'm an Amazon prime customer, right, I order a coffee from starbucks and in five minutes I'm going to pull through the drive through and they're going to hand it to me. So, you know, I think the realization is folks don't want to wait for stuff. A wayfinding and being a able to connect to easily the services you need is also can be challenging, especially in the local government space. So all at and then the back end processes have to adapt to be able to consume, you know, digital inputs in some cases, and then the business function has to be able to, you know, be open to or open itself up to, you know, peaks in demand or understanding that, say, if someone reports a pothole on a street, they've got to do something with that right and it may be that they just need to figure out that it's not a county problem, it's a local jurisdiction that they we need to forward that too. So some cases, because of the way local government works here, you know, we have a county that's a large entity, but within its borders live sometimes hundreds of municipalities that have their own regulations and interactions with the public. That doesn't scale very well right when you have a hundred different public agencies, are entities, all in the same space, all providing services,...

...it becomes that just sort of compounds the navigation problem for folks. So it's a real problem and one of the things that we're beginning now to understand is that we can't really solve that exclusively by ourselves that we need to engage with partner agencies within the read within our region ultimately to provide really cohesive solutions for the public. Otherwise, you know, they'll they'll be on a road that's managed by a city and they'll send a pothole request into the county and it falls on the floor because it's not our jurisdiction and we don't have the capacity to hand that off to where it should go, or we just say hey, on our problem, talk to the city. That's also not a great kind of return trip for me as someone who's trying to do the right thing and then feels like I'm just kind of getting pushed around because no one wants to take ownership in what rolled us, the underlying architecture off the systems play. You mentioned already before the topic golf, like the back end systems. But what you say is the most difficult part in modernizing, digitizing some of those processes, like if you think about like the architecture perspective in it. Yeah, well, I think it's always, I mean it's always easier to be starting from scratch or to be right or to be hooking this on to some kind of modernization effort right it so if we can for modernizing and replacing a system, those types of scenarios are much easier for us to deal with where we were. The challenges, I think, as you as you rightly point out, is when we're trying to modernize inside an existing paradigm or an existing kind of architecture. That can be more challenging. And so, you know, worked we're very much trying to to leverage apis and services where we can. Can you give an impression of like how many, how many Apis, just roughly, would you have which which you using today, so to get to get and get a get a feeling for how much services around which are or API accessible? You know, that's a great question. I wish I knew the answer. It's in the hundreds. You know, in many cases where leveraging platforms like lowcode rapid development platforms like the so when we've implemented a couple of Microsoft Dynamics, I think their power platform now comes with kind of an eight API generator. Where we've used a lot of apis is in our digital payment space and because another thing, you know, we have to think about is PCI compliance here in the US right payment card industry ensuring really we don't want to be, the county doesn't want to be managing card holder data. So we've do we developed a whole suite of Apis and API services to enable us to interact with a payment provider where we our customers can essentially fill up a shopping car the services and products and then when they're ready to pay, we hand them off through a set of Apis to our provider and then allow them to complete the checkout process. So we kind of offload the transaction piece there and then, you know, then it's so a lot of the API work we're doing is integrating with providers. But then more of it say. I mean we probably won't even have time to touch on GIS and the importance of GIS systems in local government, but you know, there's a tremendous amount of apis that exist in orbit the GIS space. So geographic information is a kind of critical and core piece of almost every piece of data that we have in the government. Location is really critical. Yeah, yeah, can you give an example where a GIS system is used? So is its in like understanding locations of buildings off like infrastructure? How? where? What are some of the use cases where you use it for. So right now in the midst of all I mean you could probably talk all day about Gis, but you know we're a couple of things. So we primarily sponsor along...

...with other jurisdictions in the region and the federal government. Right now we're collecting a lighter for the entire county. So we provide a lot of base map data and imagery, and not just to county consumers, but we make that pretty much available to the public. So you can imagine like parks, trails, roads, infrastructure is all mapped. Pretty much every piece of data that the county manages. If it doesn't, it could have a spatial com so it could have a location component to it. Tremendous amounts of analysis occur based on location, our census data, equity data, social justice information, there's almost any scenario you can imagine, we could do some sort of spatial analysis and create a map and represent that data information on a map for you. That adds insight and relevance and new understanding. So it's a pretty core capability and I think you'll find it a most mature local governments that they have a pretty competent GIS capability. It also resolves into really simple things like having a consistent way of locating an address on a map. So a lot developers often when they come in the county and they encounter this problem, they'll try to use a google service or a public, you know, a free service on the Internet. So, but we have an API that that is our standard call. When you have an address and you want to resolve that to XY coordinates or you need to display that address on a map, we have a map service, we have a coordinate translator and we just those are the services that we've standardized on because we have the kind of definitive street network and address network for the county and those are the services that we consistently call. You know, it's also a pretty key technology in the property and assessment division. So we have an assessor's division or agency. It's an agency and not a division, our accessory agency actually. You know, they go around, they track every parcel, every property in the county and then they you know, for TAC property tax purposes and sessive value. That's all in the core. That is a GI as system that, you know, you can split parcels, you can join parcels, we have the street network. It's all there, it's all in the GIS and it's a super powerful tool and most of the interaction with that is based on publishing and consuming apis interesting. I mean it sounds to me like this journey is well on its way to expose functionality through API, is making that accessible. What I'd like to understand a bit is how do you set up your it organization today? I mean you mentioned before you have like roughly four in fifty people within within it. Is that correct? So what I asked ask myself what we see in the private industries is a shift from a more project centric work to a more product mindset. I would you describe that in the local government in King County? So how far is this progress? So we're there. I mean we're not there there, but we're kind of in that in that zone where we've we feel like we've we've kind of maxed out our capacity to deliver kind of innovation, right, and kind of these new experiences and interactions in a kind of I guess I would sort of consider that like a classic kind of like midsize corporate it structure, which is, you know, it just frankly tiered. Maybe it's it's really heavy into eye till and you know we have these sort of technical verticals, right. So we have engineering within engineering, we have software engineering and data engineering and we have operations and we have any user support that and that's worked for us and it I think it's worked for a while because it...

...it fits in pretty neatly to the way that the county has worked organizationally. But what we're seeing is that we need to pivot and we've begun the process. We're about a Ye, well, maybe not a here, maybe nine months and covid actually made us like hyper aware that this shift needed to occur, that we really need to think about and begin the shift into a product organization and adapt or adopt a product mindset. And so that's we've been working at. And digital payments is one of the first product teams that we've been in the midst of standing up. There's, you know, sixty five molus or minus lines of business. There's a tremendous amount of demand, we have limited supply and what happens is we begin developing these really deep backlogs of requests that you know we're never going to get past number fifteen, maybe even past number ten, and when you're number sixty in line, and that's not a great feeling to be a customer requesting something that you're never going to get. And so the model really isn't hasn't been working for us, I think, for a while, and for us to really focus on delivering relevant experiences, not just to the public but to our internal customers. You know, it's our belief and again kind of, you know, looking outside at what's happening beyond the local government space and technology, we really think that a transition into a product teams is the way for us to go. Now we have to also understand and be aware that the county as a whole, you know, we're four hundred and fifty out of Fifteenzero people in the organization and we recognize that we want to shift the way we work into, you know, out of projects and into products. We got to find a way to bring the rest of the county along in that conversation and that's a longer tail, right, is changing the way the county actually works, how it funds, how it manages the capital, Technology Investment Right, which it likes to do and has done as long as I've been there, has done, you know, via these large projects, big and big investments. So we know we want to move into products. We're beginning to do that, I think, where we believe it's a differentiator for us and the experiences we can provide. We know we still have to live within a project world. So we're we're kind of beginning to carve out this space where we can deliver via products and and the way we're doing that we kind of landed on safe, scaled, agile framework to enable us to do that. We still are going to have some big it investment projects. So we're kind of in a hybrid mode right now. We're moving into this hybrid space where, where we believe technology can be a differentiator for public engagement and experiences, we're a lying into products for our core infrastructure business, compute, cloud, network storage. We're assembling those into product teams because the customers for those products and services are other internal teams that are delivering. I mean, our customers aren't walking up to us and saying, can I have a server today, right, they're asking for a solution, right, or something that solves a problem. That's rarely a machine. So starting with the core infrastructure and some of these really high value solution sets or experiences where we can really move feel like we can move the bar from a public experience space we're moving into products. In the midst of that, we have some we also have some really big waterfolish projects that are happening, these big business transformation things, and so we're going to have to be, I think, for a period of time, in a hybrid mode where we're doing both, but are kind of predominant or preferred way of operating. It's going to be as a product organization and when we need to do something big, something really transformative, we still want to do that iteratively and be able to leverage as much kind of agile whether it's agile or lean or whatever methodology we use. We don't really have no interest in doing kind of waterfall big...

...bang projects anymore. So even if we're doing something that looks like waterfall, it's more like scrumma fall or something where we're iterating inside of that kind of governance architecture that feels like waterfall, that we still want to be delivering value all the time and not waiting until the end to deliver the final product. It's challenging, right, because it's the county is is large and complex and the way it funds technology is in many cases like baked into legislative code and it takes a while to move that right. It's like it's time intensive, and so we're going to we're going to shift where we can, where it makes the most sense, but understand that we've got to work in this other way as well. What has changed in in the work off it planning or deriving rope maps architectures? How is that changing? As you're now in modest hybrid world, I can imagine it's no longer like deriving multi year rope maps and mighty your plans, as you want to do that more Inter reflectively. But how do you manage how do you manage the architecture in such a setup? Right? So, I mean this is something that's evolving kind of as we speak. I think so we for for about five years we've had so luction architects and essentially, you know, solution architects were masters of the domains that they were focused on. So, you know, I think we have to network architects to are no to network architects. We have like a GIS architect and API integration architect a number of data architects. What we're finding as we make this transition into a product organization and some of the structure that enabled us to stay standardized, I guess, for lack of better word, or kind of focus on or enable the organization to stay aligned to the road maps in the strategy, some of that's peeling away a little bit as we give a more autonomy to product teams. We're finding, or what we're realizing, is that we need to think about enterprise architecture again, or maybe not again are we just need to think about it. We had an enterprise architect a long time ago and then we kind of moved away from enterprise architecture. Then there are a couple of, I think, really for us, really interesting things we want to achieve with enterprise architecture. One is connecting the whole of the IT side right and make sure that we're all on track and moving in the same direction, right towards the same end goal. The other is, as we focus more and more on these product spaces, is how do we map to business capability right, because for us we've driven a lot of standardization and around the Tech Knowledgy side, but we still have a lot of technical debt. So we still have, you know, something like a thousand applications that I tease, responsible for supporting. A lot of those are duplicative. A lot of those applications, you know, are responding to the same core business capability. So, you know, one thing we wanted to as we consider enterprise architecture, we want to we want to be thinking about is how do we start mapping our current solution set into core business capabilities, or or can we even do that for many of them? And then how do we make decisions about the portfolio? And then how do we make decisions about the future in smart ways where we're we're not necessarily driving, and I think I give this example earlier this week. So the county probably has twenty different asset management systems, asset management work order systems, and we want to get that down to hand. Let's say we want to get that from twenty two five right. Because of the distinctness of the lines of business, it may not be possible to have a single solution that responds to what road services needs, improvises enough capability to manage a road network and everything that's associated with that and also manage a transit, you know, a bus fleet. So, but...

...we know we don't need twenty, right, we don't. I mean, and I'm not sure that's the right number, but it's more than it's more than two handfuls. So stetic getting to I mean, and this, I think is sort of for me, is is one of the interesting problems that an enterprise architect can help us. Our Enterprise Architecture can help us solved rights, understanding, from a business capability standpoint, what the needs are and then helping us a line and build a solution strategy to meet those needs. Because it doesn't work, we know it doesn't work, to say hey, hey, business, its here, we're going to have one enterpriseset management solution and you're going to have to stuff yourselves into that, right. I mean that's a recipe for disaster. But if we but it's a much different conversation, say hey, it can no longer manage twenty of these. We think we could do for right, and we think it's going to be more cost effective for you, customer, and you'll get a better experience because we can. We can now zero. We had less than a handful of these things and trying to be spread across twenty. So that's just, you know, enterprise architecture just kind of keeps popping up as we as we talked about a move into this product transformation as something that we need to keep an eye on and develop the capacity for, because we see too many gaps emerging where things we I think, we thought were happening weren't happening, or things that we're happening or we're worried are going to stop happening as we move into products that will lose track of and developing a really competent enterprise architecture. It just really frankly, architecture practice that is able to span across product teams is going to be really critical, I think, for us. But it's interesting to hear obviously, and up US architecture had it's it's like heights and and and all highs and lows, and I find it kind of interesting that you say for this move into a modern product centric organization that can be also critical own capability of it. So we're obviously seeing that in some of the organizations we're working with. One question, which I still have on my list is what would you recommend for other governments or even other organizations if they are doing this move, this shift. What are some of maybe the learnings you would say, like if I could go back when you start it, this this shift and do differently? Is the anything you you can recommend as a like top three learnings? So for me the kind of the big thing for in my my journey here was, you know, I began approaching this over a year ago not really thinking about kind of understanding that we wanted to work in products, but not really having kind of the language or the ability to sort of talk about it coherently, and maybe still not sure I do yet, but it's getting better. So I began approaching this as like a organization change, like a reor type of mentality, and kind of quickly understood that to be the wrong frame to bring to this conversation. Right. So for us, especially in local government at King County in it is it's kind of easy to fall into. We need to move the boxes around right. If only get the right box in the right spot on the word chart and get the right person in that box, it's going to work the way we wanted to and I think we pretty quickly came to understand, or at least I did, maybe not quickly enough. The boxes really don't matter that and in fact they're almost an inhibitor for us to be able to get things done the way we want to get things done. So really what I view and kind of the big lightbulb moment for me, was coming to the conclusion, or really landing on the idea that the organization wants to work as a graph or a network. Right. The people don't want to be in a box, in a vertical eighteen layers from the top. They want to be part of a team that's connected,...

...that's that has a core mission and focus and is connected to other teams that either kind of influence their direction or whose direction they influence. Right, so it's it's a net. What we're trying to create here is not another shiny new or chart, right, that I can slap into a powerpoint and say, look at what we've got now, we did products right. It's to really create this organization that is a network of teams that needs as little management, like active management, as possible to get things done right, because too often managers just getting the way of teams being creative and solving problems and we like to tweak the boxes on the work churn and that's really not what this is about. It's about it's about freeing up these teams, giving them a mission and a purpose, really not giving it to them, but having them figure it out right. And so that's a tough transition to make gus, someone who's in a leadership role, who's, you know, kind of nominally charged with driving from the top right, to say we're going to flip the pyramid and I'm here to help you guys do what you need to do, but really it's up to you to figure out how to do it and how to work together to make it happen. So one thing that's been really amazing, and I've got a I've got a phenomenal deputy who I brought in to help with this transition and is really that flip for us, is to sit not to say we're going to drive this from the top, but what we're going to do is lay out some parameters and the direction how we want to work together and sure that that resonates with the teams and then kind of hand it off to them to let them do the design of how these product teams are going to work, how they're what they're going to be, and we're you know, we're not. We didn't just walk away and saying come back, we have to figure it out. We're helping them through this journey and we're along right alongside them for it. But it's a it's a I think it feels to me like a big shift away from senior leadership saying this box goes here to say this is how we want to work together, this is the framework we want to use. You guys go kind of figure it out and let's little touch base and see how things are going. But since I did that, and that wasn't just me, it was kind of a collection of us, you know, I'll have meetings and I it was like I would walk into a pitch meeting after pitch meeting and people are like Hey, I think we can do it like this right, and like let me show you this idea I had, and that to me was, as so far been, one of the greatest outcomes from this is it's really lit up the way people think about how we can deliver it, not just as waiting for the next project or the next customer request to drop. That really we can. We can drive as much as the customer drives and we have not just an opportunity of that, an obligation to meet them where they're at and help shape their understanding of what and how technology can transform their business and their customers lives. So for me that's the really been the big thing, is to forget about the work chart and kind of let go of that as a metaphor of control in that Organization and find a paradigm that works. And it's not going to work everywhere right. It's got to be the right time at the right place, but I found it to be a pretty powerful way of engaging with staff and getting them energized about about building the future. I must say I mean a lot of that resonates strongly with me. I don't know if he can recommend the source from like what you US helped you to design and come up with this knowledge. I almost wanted to ask, do you know the book empowered, which describes so it's ordinary people extraordinary products. It's from the same group of people who have wrote written the book inspired and like how to create tech products customers left. So I think a lot of what you said resonates our sons very much in alignment with both inspired and empowered as...

I don't know if you know those two books too. I think I know. I think I know empowered. You know, I also have a lot as. I have a lot of really smart people working for me that are working with me. You know that that read a lot and come with ideas, and so I can't think of like one title. You know, I've looked at it just a lot of stuff and spend a lot of time reading, you know, each you know Harvard Business Review. There's just there's tons of stuff out there, I mean and there's you know, the Internet is amazing, like the answers are out there. Sometimes you just need to know the right questions to ask. But yeah, it's just kind of been you know that I can trace the way I've been thinking about it, and this is something that I've been thinking about for a long time, all the way back to like think it's called leading lean software development. I'm not sure if that's the title, by by Mary Poppin. I think was the first thing and I'm not sure if she was only out there on that, but it was like the first thing that I was like looking at, going Oh, you know, we don't we don't have to work like this. There's a different way that we can be organizing ourselves and thinking about how we deliver software, and then it's not too hard to kind of extrapolate that out to not just be about software and really be about technic technology as a whole and how we deliver solutions and how we can scale that out. And then, you know, you talk to people, if you talk to people as a leader, of first they they're kind of hesitant, but once they engage with it, it's really fun to kind of watch them go, Oh, you mean we can do it like this? Like it almost it's almost like they haven't felt like they've had the license or the ability to kind of chart a path that makes sense for them and their team, understanding that they're now in a position to deliver products. Right, it's not. It's not servers and it's really the way we've defined products is is centering it around a customer. So if you don't have a customer that you can identify, you don't really have a product in our opinion. So if you're just churning out servers or databases, it's not products. Are widgets right, you have to. We say you have to have a customer, you have to be able to measure performance or experience. There has to be designed so because the experience matters. It's not just a thing that you drop, you know, and so we're trying, and it's loose right. We have, I think, six criteria and I won't be able to take them all off the top of my head, but folks can gravitate around that and say, okay, now that I sort of understand that what the framework looks like, here's how I think what I'm doing my business fits into that model and it's pretty it seems so far to be pretty powerful. Where it's early days and I'm super optimistic that this is going to be really successful for us, not just for us but, you know, for everyone that consumes what we do. Yeah, Stephen, and it was absolutely interesting for me to learn more about some of the digital, digital initiatives you're driving forward in in the local governments, but also to hear what are some of the obstacles, or, yeah, some of some too holds to overcome, and I really liked the approach you're taking towards shifting to what's more product mindset. It will mean to manage the hybrid worlds, as I understood. So a big thank you to you for for sharing, sharing your insights in in this podcast and, yeah, looking forward to to hear at one point of time to how this has evolved. So thank you a lot, Stephen, and modern success to you and your team going forward. Thanks and right. Thanks for having me US Rache, to talk to you this morning and really appreciate the opportunity. Thank you so much. You've been listening to unleash. I T to ensure that you never miss an episode. Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about enterprise architecture and tools to help unleash your businesses digital capabilities, visit lean ix dotnet. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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