CIO revs up highway patrol with massive application modernizationDate: Jun 20, 2011
Clifford Gronauer, CIO at the Missouri State Highway Patrol, doesn't look like someone who is easily ruffled. That aura of calm no doubt has served him well in recent years as he has led an application modernization project that replaces the highway patrol's legacy environment en masse.
"The original plan was to do it piecemeal, like most organizations," confessed Gronauer, a finalist for the 2011 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium Award for Innovation Leadership.
As Gronauer explains in this CIO Innovator video, however, a "perfect storm" of events persuaded him to go big. The organization's mainframe-based legacy applications, most of them developed in the 1970s, were expensive to run and to maintain. Moreover, he was hard put to find people to support them. "Let's face it, when kids come out of college today with their IT degrees, COBOL and CICS are not real high on their hit parade," he said. In addition, the patrol's 2,500 officers and civilian employees were clamoring for more features and functions. Then came a potential windfall: federal grant money -- assuming he could muster an appeal on short notice.
"We had a 10-day window from the time we found out about the grant to when the application was due," Gronauer said. "With luck, skill, whatever, somebody was shining down on us and we got a fairly sizeable grant that helped fund at least the startup of the project."
The application modernization project is entering its second phase. The modules -- all off-the-shelf software -- are in production. Efforts now are focused on improving systems that serve not only the patrol but also about 10,000 users throughout Missouri's criminal justice system. Even at this stage, however, it is probably fair to say that the application modernization project is life-changing.
The project's linchpin is the patrol's computer-aided dispatch, or CAD, solution, Gronauer said. That system puts out initial calls for help and connects with the laptops installed in patrol officers' cars. The map-based approach of the new software is particularly effective for a largely rural state like Missouri, he said, where the patrol generally does not respond to specific addresses but to mile makers on interstate highways. The software also allows officers to do single-entry data: For example, once they've scanned a license's bar code, they can access the driver's information and print out a ticket in the patrol car. The project's overall goal was to improve officers' accuracy and reduce the amount of time they spend on administrative duties. "We're trying to revolutionize the quality of their jobs," he added.
Watch the video to hear more about the technical challenges of the application modernization project and how Gronauer deployed his personnel to ensure maximum IT innovation.
The SearchCIO.com CIO Innovators profile series highlights how CIOs use technology to meet both IT and business leadership objectives. To suggest a leader for a future CIO Innovator profile, email email@example.com.
Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer.
Read the full transcript from this video below:
CIO revs up highway patrol with massive application modernization
Linda: Hi, I'm Linda Tucci, senior news writer for
speaking today with Cliff Gronauer, CIO of the Missouri State Highway
Patrol. Cliff and I are at the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at
the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, where Cliff is one of three nominees for the
CIO Innovator Award. Cliff, thank you very much for being with us today.
Cliff: Thank you, Linda.
Linda: Cliff, tell us a little bit about the project that you
Cliff: We've kind of taken a unique approach to modernizing
application environment with the highway patrol. Most law
enforcement agencies have a number of core application that they
use on a regular basis, and it's not uncommon for them to
replace one or maybe two of those at a time. What we've done is
kind of thrown the baby out with the bath water and we've done
the whole thing all at once. We had a variety of opportunities
that kind of presented the perfect storm, so to speak, and we
took advantage of that and it has really turned out very well
for the organization.
Linda: So what was the impetus for this application
Cliff: Well, we had been looking at replacing most of the
and our original plan was to piecemeal it like most other
organizations. Most of the applications were legacy variety,
they'd been developed in the '70s, they were mainframe-based,
expensive to run, expensive to maintain. Let's face it: When
kids come out of college today with their IT degrees, COBOL and
CICS are not real high on their hit parades. So, it was becoming
difficult to find people to support the applications.
We started looking around for what's available in the
marketplace. So, we were looking primarily for off-the-shelf
software, and we found a variety of vendors out there. These
companies all had good track records, implementations. Sizable
implementations -- that was one of the other criteria that we were
looking for, because we're a fairly good-sized organization and we
support a lot of users.
So, we needed something that would scale well. We found a
of these applications and we embarked on what we were originally
considering to be a kind of a phased-in implementation: Do one
application this year, another one the next, etc. But we
stumbled across some grant funding opportunities that were a
little too good to pass up, so it turned out to be one of those.
We weighed the pros and cons of doing everything at one time
versus doing it piecemeal and paying for it ourselves, and we
ended up going the whole route, doing it all at one time.
Linda: And how many users do you support? How big is your
Cliff: The organization itself is about 2,500 people. That
all of the uniformed officers and the civilians, but we also
support every law enforcement and criminal justice agency
throughout the state in one fashion or another, which is
somewhere around 10,000 users. So, it's a pretty sizable support
Linda: So, we'd been talking about innovation with CIOs all
and one of the things we're really curious about is who or what
at the organization is driving this particular innovation. So,
you said one of the reasons why you had to modernize is that the
new generation coming in just isn't particularly interested in
those legacy applications or knows much about them, and we heard
that just in the first session at the MIT symposium, that
adapting to this new workforce is critical if you want to
succeed. Was there anyone else in your organization or any other
force that was pushing you to modernize these applications?
Cliff: Well, the users themselves were clamoring for more
functionality. And then our command staff, which is our senior
management, they were very supportive and I think they were very
aware that in the coming years something had to be done. They knew
that modernizing these to a certain extent would make everyone's
life more productive, give them better information, a more
timely basis, and probably end up in the long run being more
economical because we'd be able to run them on a server-based
platform rather than a mainframe. So, we had a variety of
factors that came into play when these decisions were being
made, and some were pushing harder than others.
Linda: And the grant money, where did that come from?
Cliff: Anybody that's ever been affiliated or had any
work with the federal government, some of these grant
announcements are very short-term, to put it bluntly. We had
about a 10-day window from the time we found out about this
grant opportunity until the application was due.
Cliff: So, we scramble and put an application together and
it. By luck, skill, whatever it was, somebody was shining down
on us and we ended up getting a fairly sizable grant that helped
fund at least the startup of this project.
Linda: And where are you now in the project?
Cliff: We have all of the modules in production now and we're
on what can we do to make things better and enhance them. Moving
on kind of like to phase 2 of what can we do to make things
Linda: Can you give me just a couple examples of the
you're bringing in?
Cliff: Sure. I guess the starting point, at least from a
perspective, is computer-aided dispatch -- we refer to it as CAD.
That is where our call takers get the initial calls, they look
to see who's available to respond to the call, and then they
assign that call to the appropriate officer or whatever resource
they need. That is done on more of a map-based approach, which is
a big plus for us because covering the entire state, we're
generally not responding to calls at a specific address. Most of
our calls are somewhere on mile marker 122 on I-70 or something
along those lines, so the map-based approach worked much better
for us than the address-based approach.
We have that. Then we have in the cars the laptops for
officers. They have an interface with the CAD system so they can
see the same maps that the dispatchers see. Also on these maps
we see of the vehicles [is] an automated vehicle location system so
they can track who is where, see who's nearby if they need
backup, etc. The software in the cars also gives them the
capability of doing single data entry, so when they pull a
violator over, they scan the barcode on their driver's license,
they get all that information from that driver's license, they
don't have to key it in. It saves them a lot of time, makes it
much more accurate.
As more and more of these come into play, if we have
incidents, multiple people involved, the time savings goes up
dramatically at that point. They also have the capability of
producing the tickets in the car, printing them out so they
don't have to hand-write them anymore, again saving them a lot
of time. The goal really overall was to make things more
accurate and to reduce the amount of administrative time that
the officers had to spend. It gives them more time to spend on
the road, it makes them more visible. That was really the
Linda: So, IT is really revolutionizing or improving the
quality of their
Cliff: Well, we're trying to. The other thing that really kind
comes into play here, we talked about the IT workers not really
wanting to mess with the old systems. We're finding too there's
somewhat of an age-related acceptance on the officers level,
too. Some of the folks that have been on the force for 20, 30
years are looking at some of computer stuff and they're going,
"I'm not sure I want to mess with that." The younger folks are
really, really very accepting of what's going and very
supportive and they take to it very well, but the new systems
are so easy to use and so intuitive that even the old-timers are
catching on and being more productive with what we're giving
Linda: What were the biggest technical challenges of the
Cliff? And what were the biggest challenges for you as the CIO?
Cliff: The technical challenges were probably more related
integration. These applications that we're purchasing, we've got
five different applications from four different vendors and most
of them had been very accustomed to coming into a project where
they were the only new face. So, they had essentially solid
walls all around them and they just had to fill in between. This
particular situation was very different because everything was
changing all at the same time. There was really no core solid
foundation for any of them to brace themselves against. So, that
was probably the biggest technical challenge, getting them all
to work together to develop the interfaces and things like that.
From an organizational perspective, one of the things that
did that was very different was assigning project leads from a
technical perspective, project leads that were outside of their
comfort zone. In other words, I've got a very large and very
excellent staff, but rather than putting someone on the CAD
project that had been working with CAD for years, we put
somebody different that had never worked with CAD before.
And the reason we did that was, No. 1, to give them a new
opportunity, but No. 2, to keep those old habits from
carrying forward. We didn't want things to develop so that it
was, "We've always done it this way, so we're going to keep doing
it this way." We wanted to have them take a fresh look at and
have them question why are we doing thing like this. So that was
something that we did that was a little bit different.
Linda: One last question, and you have to brag about yourself:
would you say were the attributes or your leadership style that most
contributed to the success of this project?
Cliff: I would have to say probably delegation to a very high
I'm very much a fan of the "let me give you something and you
run with it, and I'm here if you need guidance, advice, help, if
I need to find some resources or shield you from the stuff
that's rolling downhill." That's how I view my job, but I want
to develop the folks that are doing the projects, let them be as
involved as they possibly can, let them make the decisions. How
else can you have a staff that's going to grow unless they have
those opportunities? So, that's something that I try to do. The
old saying about "it's amazing what you can get done if you
don't care who gets the credit" -- I think we do a pretty good job
Linda: Cliff, thank you very much and congratulations on
Cliff: Thank you for taking the time to interview today, I
Linda: I'm Linda Tucci, senior news writer for SearchCIO.com,
at the MIT
Sloan CIO Symposium at the MIT campus in Cambridge,