CIO Profiles: Lynn Willenbring, CIO Of The City Of Minneapolis

Look for more shared services among governmental agencies, she says.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

March 20, 2009

3 Min Read

Career Track

LYNN WILLENBRINGCIO, City of Minneapolis

How long at current company: Five years

Career accomplishment I'm most proud of: Within six months of being appointed CIO, I needed to hire my entire executive team, renegotiate our outsourcing contract, and deal with the I-35W bridge collapse. Each of these presented great challenges and immense opportunities. At the end of my first six months, I had changed the department's direction, built credibility for our ability to deliver, and helped propel the city's image throughout the world. No wonder I was so tired!

Most important career influencer: My most important career influencer is my father. He raised me to believe in myself and ignore any artificial limitations. He taught me through example to embrace new ways of looking at problems, to value formal and informal learning opportunities, and to make family a priority.

Decision I wish I could do over: We issued an RFP for a major security product distributed to 4 million customers. We contracted with an outside firm to conduct the durability testing but didn't do sufficient due diligence on the testing firm. As a result, the second-place vendor exercised undue influence and the testing firm backed away from the results. We needed to cancel the new contract and reissue the RFP, costing time and causing cost overruns.


Advice for future CIOs: Learn your organization's business and make it your own. Understand the operation's pain points, opportunities for innovation, and areas ripe for new ideas. Next, talk with your peers about the business value you can produce. Only then can you raise the subject of how technology can make their dreams a reality. You need to be seen as more than a tech leader--you must be seen as a business leader and a strategic business partner.

The next big thing for my industry will be: shared services. You'll see more government partnerships spanning the state, county, and local levels. There's too much redundancy in government operations. Last year, Minneapolis and Hennepin County merged their library systems. Libraries remained open, yet administrative overhead was reduced. Many opportunities exist across levels of government, including IT services.

On The Job

IT budget (approximate): $26 million

Size of IT team: 94 employees

Top three initiatives:

  • City-wide Wi-Fi network for staff and residential use.

  • Improving IT security standards and operations.

  • Initiating an enterprise information management architecture and process.

How I measure IT effectiveness: Internal customer satisfaction, measuring all elements of our operation, is our most critical measurement. If our customers are dissatisfied, it doesn't matter how efficient our operational metrics show us to be--we wouldn't be successful. We also have 38 SLAs with our outsourcing provider, as well as benchmarks.


Colleges/degrees: University of Minnesota, BS; Cardinal Stritch University, MS

Leisure activities: Golf and watching my son play soccer

Best book read recently: Stone Cold, by David Baldacci

Smartphone of choice: Windows Mobile, HTC 6800+

Personal computer: Desktops and laptops have really become commodity items. As long as the processor and storage are at current specs, I have no preference.

If I weren't a CIO, I'd be ... unemployed

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