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The 2013 IT Leadership Awards: Honoring effective leadership styles

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City CIO propels open government initiative with technology innovation

IT Leadership Awards finalist, CIO Jonathan Reichental, launched a successful open government initiative by using technology innovation.

Our SearchCIO 2013 IT Leadership Awards recognize the contributions and innovations of IT professionals at enterprise companies. We put out a call for nominations of individuals who have excelled in six categories: cultural innovation, technological advancement, business value, green IT, IT engagement and customer experience.

In today's hyper-connected world, citizens expect to be kept informed and be able to find the information they need without a hassle. In the City of Palo Alto, Calif., however, the technology tools weren't there to provide access, frustrating private citizens and public officials alike.

Jonathan Reichental
Jonathan Reichental

IT Leadership Awards finalist Jonathan Reichental, named CIO for the City of Palo Alto in December 2011, made it his business to make good on an open government initiative. In less than 10 months, Reichental and his IT team not only launched several programs, but also brought international attention to Palo Alto as a model for deploying open government initiatives that get quick results. In a simple but highly effective move, he led the creation of a communications channel using Twitter. This enabled community members to ask questions of the mayor, city manager and other city leaders. He also spearheaded the launch of an open data platform that eliminates the gap between requests for data and the delivery of data. Upon realizing the success of that technology innovation, Reichental then championed the release of an open budget tool that makes five years of city financial data available to everyone. This technology innovation is considered a first-of-a-kind anywhere in the U.S. for a city the size of Palo Alto.

The payback for all this openness? Citizens are using the data they're now able to easily obtain to build new applications for use by the community at no cost.

Get to know more about Reichental, a finalist in our business value, IT engagement and customer experience categories, in this Q&A.

Number of years in IT: 22

From the nomination

"Dr. Reichental is an innovative and caring leader. He is determined to ensure that his team can be successful. He budgeted for the largest increase in IT staff training and it was approved, reflecting his commitment to his staff. Dr. Reichental is a model IT leader for local government right at a time when technology is such an important part of organizational success and when so many local governments are in need of help."

Revenue: $449 million

Number of employees in the company: 1,019 FTEs expanding seasonally to around 1,500

Number of employees in IT: 32 FTEs

Educational background: Bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering, Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland; bachelor of science degree in computer information systems, University of Tampa; doctorate in information systems, Nova Southeastern University.

First job: Car driver for an on-the-road jewelry salesman, because he had a heart condition that prohibited him from driving.

LinkedIn: Jonathan Reichental

Twitter Handle: @reichental and @PaloAltoCIO

What's the best advice you've ever received? Find your song and sing it every day.

In the movie of your life, who would play your character? Daniel Radcliffe

If you could have just one superpower, what would it be and why? To heal the sick. It doesn't need an explanation.

Judge's comment

"Great example of bringing private sector methods and practices to the public sector in a way that is pragmatic and delivers value to constituents. Refreshing."

What's your favorite app on your smartphone or tablet device? Twitter. CardMunch is a close second.

Where do you fall in the iPhone versus Android debate? I love my iPhone. I haven't spent much time using an Android device, so I am not qualified to weigh in.

Describe the best technology decision you ever made: To make technology the focus of my career.

Was there ever a technology that you thought was a gimmick but now couldn't live without? I didn't anticipate the extent to which my smartphone would improve so many parts of my life.

What's the biggest challenge you face in IT today? Ensuring that my team members have the right skills to deliver high-performance results.

Which role/internal partner do you rely upon the most? My IT managers.

What's your prediction for the next big technology? Easy-to-use personal tools for proactive health management, disease diagnosis and administration of remedy.

What's your favorite nonmonetary benefit or perk of your job? Helping to empower team members to have fulfilling, valuable, and fun careers and observing the happiness that ensues.

What is the biggest problem you see with corporate cultures today? They tend to be more reactive than proactive.

What are "rookie mistakes" that you see in up-and-coming IT leaders? Not listening enough, not asking enough questions, lack of emotional intelligence and not spending enough time getting to know internal and external customers.

Describe your leadership style: Open, collaborative, decisive and values-based.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, Features Writer.

This was first published in May 2013

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Essential Guide

The 2013 IT Leadership Awards: Honoring effective leadership styles
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