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Social CIO Series: Jonathan Reichental, City of Palo Alto

“It’s not our position to be a follower, so we want to be a leader in the application of social.”

“It’s not our position to be a follower, so we want to be a leader in the application of social.”

Name: Dr. Jonathan Reichental
Title: Chief Information Officer
Organization: City of Palo Alto

1. Tell us a bit about your organization and what it is trying to accomplish.

Our organization mission is clear: To provide innovative technology solutions that support City departments in delivering quality services to the community. This entails supporting an environment that efficiently delivers over 200 distinct technology applications. Our team also recognizes our responsibility as the City of Palo Alto to push the boundaries of government innovation. To that end we experiment with a range of new technologies and processes that can be a model for better government, deeper community engagement, and a more inclusive democracy.

2. Tell us a bit about you and how you view your role as CIO.

Short of a few random summer jobs when I was a teenager, I’ve always had a technology-focused career. I’ve been working in a variety of technology roles for over 20 years and I believe now has never been better to play in this space.

“We live in amazing times and we’re about to be even more surprised. Just wait to see what technology will do within the next 5 years and beyond.”

As far as my role as a CIO goes, I consider my #1 responsibility to ensure that my team members can be successful. If you have a skilled and energized team, almost every other responsibility is achievable.

3. What were the key reasons you started to drive social into your organization?

There are over a billion active monthly users of Facebook and almost 700 million daily users. Yet, when these same people go to work they operate in a world that barely recognizes the benefits of social computing in an enterprise context. We believe that the same behaviors exhibited in the consumer space such as sharing and collaboration applied in an organization have the potential to be transformational in a positive manner. It’s not our position to be a follower, so we want to be a leader in the application of social.

4. How did the arrival of social interplay with your organization's culture?

It’s too early to tell. Introducing social computing in a local government context is disruptive. Fortunately at the City we have an emergent culture of innovation that is more open to trying new ideas and thinking differently. While some people are struggling to find a role for it in their work processes, others are jumping in and trying a whole range of uses.

Surprisingly, introducing social may have a big role in influencing a positive cultural shift.

5. How did you mitigate the change management aspects of introducing social?

Our social enterprise platform was introduced as an experiment for a small group of first-movers. It was then scaled to include a larger group of early-adopters. Simply through viral expansion, within a few months over 100 staff members were using the service. Using a combination of analytics and interviews we were able to determine the right time and manner to launch the service citywide.

6. What do you see as your biggest social "win" so far, inside your organization?

There are several, but in particular, our health and wellness efforts have been aided by social. Many staff members use the product to motivate lunch-time walks, to join sports teams, and to share health-related articles. There really wasn’t an effective way to do this so quickly and effortlessly prior to our social platform. Of course, we are also beginning to see some of the more traditional measures of success-- albeit early--such as quickly connecting people and answers, broadly sharing valuable news and documents, and other process efficiencies.

7. What is your advice to traditional CIO's that are leery of "going social"? Any important lessons learned you would like to share?

Most of the concerns CIO’s have don’t materialize. There is a self-governing component to participation that regulates inappropriate use.

“If leadership speaks to the value and grass-roots efforts identify early benefits, a social platform can quickly demonstrate value.”

Ultimately, the trend suggests that social will be embedded in work-related applications in the months and years ahead and the blurring between work and home life will further magnify its likelihood. With that, I’d encourage CIO’s to experiment. There’s little downside and the upside might just make the CIO and team visionaries.


About Jostle’s CIO Series

At Jostle we recognize the importance of leadership in making social collaboration work inside of organizations. In fact, we are so passionate about it that we sought out some of the top social CIO’s in North America to participate in a Jostle Blog series that focuses on the challenges and successes of applying social tools. We are happy to share these success stories with you and we hope it inspires the social champion in all of you. If you know a Social CIO you feel should be included in this series, please contact us at CIO@jostle.me. There is no requirement that they be using the Jostle People Engagement® platform.

About the City of Palo Alto

Located 35 miles south of San Francisco and 14 miles north of San Jose, Palo Alto is a community of approximately 61,200 residents. Part of the San Francisco Metropolitan Bay Area and the Silicon Valley, Palo Alto is located within Santa Clara County and borders San Mateo County. The City of Palo Alto is more than 100 years old, and is named after a majestic 1000 (not 250) year old coastal redwood tree along San Francisquito Creek, where early Spanish explorers settled. The blend of business and residential areas anchored by a vibrant downtown defines Palo Alto’s unique character. A charming mixture of old and new, Palo Alto’s tree-lined streets and historic buildings reflect its California heritage. At the same time, Palo Alto is recognized worldwide as a leader in cutting-edge technological development. for more information visit http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/

Kelly Batke

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