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NYC's New CIO Has Dual Role

Mayor Bloomberg adds "innovation" to the job of the city's top tech executive, but project management remains a priority.

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday named Wall Street veteran Rahul Merchant the city's new CIO, taking over for Carole Post, who served as commissioner of New York's Department of IT and Telecommunications (DoITT) for the past two years.

With a staff of 1,200, Merchant takes on responsibility for the city's sprawling IT operations, as well as its efforts to be a center of technology innovation. That includes working with academic institutions, technology firms, and entrepreneurs, according to a statement from Bloomberg's office. Reflecting that dual role, Merchant's title is chief information and innovation officer, the first time a city official has had that designation.

Merchant, who reports to Bloomberg, oversees the delivery of IT services to 300,000 city employees in 120 agencies and departments. In addition to managing the city's data centers and NYCWin wireless network, DoITT provides the city's help desk and 311 services.

Merchant is charged with keeping the city's IT projects on-time and on-budget, creating a Center of Excellence that establishes standard practices for big IT projects, instituting a vendor evaluation system, and adding performance targets to tech contracts. He is also expected to expand broadband access to more city neighborhoods, help drive the city's open data programs, and find new uses for the citywide NYCWin network.

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Bloomberg turned to the business sector he knows best, financial services, to find the city's new CIO. Merchant comes from private equity firm Exigen Capital, where he was a partner. Prior to that he was chief information and operations officer with Fannie Mae and, before that, Merrill Lynch's CTO.

Bloomberg announced in April that Post would be leaving DoITT to accept a position as executive VP and chief strategy officer with New York Law School. Post had supervised an aggressive IT modernization program, which included consolidating data centers, signing a new enterprise license with Microsoft, and supporting the city's open government strategy. Just last month, DoITT disclosed plans to replace some of the 12,800 pay phones on city streets with interactive smart screens.

New York has also suffered through a number of IT challenges. For example, a long running upgrade to the city's CityTime payroll system ballooned to 10 times its original budget and led to the indictments last year of two executives with a project subcontractor.

In announcing her departure, Bloomberg credited Post with "finding efficiencies, defining legal strategies, and creating collaborations that use taxpayers' dollars more effectively." That included exercising the city's regulatory authority to bring Wi-Fi and other tech capabilities to public parks, community centers, and schools.

But Post didn't have the same background in technology management that Merchant brings to the job. Before joining DoITT, she was a director in the mayor's Office of Operations and executive director of strategic planning for the Department of Buildings.

Attend InformqtionWeek's IT Government Leadership Forum, a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in government come together to discuss how they're using technology to drive change in federal departments and agencies. It happens in Washington, D.C., May 3.

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