City of Los Angeles: Digital Transformation Done Right

The City of Los Angeles’ CIO Ted Ross joins a conversation with Workday President of Americas Sales Patrick Blair to discuss the changing role of CIOs and the urgency of people-first digital transformation in the public sector.

The public sector has evolved rapidly during the last few years. To meet residents’ expectations, governments have had to rethink how they deliver public services—and that can mean reassessing how digital technology adds value. This is no different for the City of Los Angeles.

Patrick Blair, president of American sales at Workday, recently chatted with Ted Ross, CIO at the City of Los Angeles, to learn about Los Angeles’ digital transformation journey, workforce management during the “Great Resignation—which Ross calls the “Great Reflection”—and how the role of CIO has evolved. Below are some highlights from their #WDAYChats conversation.

What Digital Transformation Means to the City of Los Angeles

If the City of Los Angeles were a company, it would be on the Fortune 100 list. With a nearly $12 billion annual operating budget, the country’s second-largest city serves more than 4 million residents. Its IT department, which delivers enterprise services to 48,000 city employees, has 19 different divisions spanning everything from a 311 call center to an Emmy Award-winning TV station. 

For Ross, that scale naturally demands viewing his role of CIO through a wide lens. “In a nutshell, I’d say I deliver digital services to over 500,000 businesses and over 48 million people who visit LA,” says Ross, who was appointed CIO by former Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2015. Ross has managed a lot of digital change in the years since. 

“When we think of digital transformation, we think of leveraging digital tools in ways unimaginable just five or 10 years ago,” Ross says. “You don’t have to have a massive data center. You don’t have to have a lot of infrastructure to get out there and deliver excellent solutions and deliver them quickly. That means as an organization, knowing what we have, establishing the right platforms like Workday, and leveraging those platforms in a rapid way to deliver value to our stakeholders and to our business partners—that’s really what’s become of the era of digital transformation today.”

How Finance and IT Can Partner to Drive Transformation 

“First of all, IT needs to make a compelling case for technology investments,” Ross says. “All too often IT goes to finance [with] technical talk that doesn’t deliver any compelling reasoning to the finance group. So whatever IT can do to demonstrate real value to an organization, real business value, the easier it is for finance to make that [the] focus.”

Ross says that it’s also important for IT to be accurate about both the one-time and ongoing costs. “IT really needs to provide truth in advertising,” he says, “which means IT is going to need to be able to speak finance. On the flip side, finance really needs to understand that IT is how business is now done. IT is not a department—IT is how every department performs [its] functions, especially in this post-pandemic world.”

Ross also emphasizes the importance of helping finance understand the power of digital opportunities. In order to thrive in today’s environment, he notes, it’s crucial that CFOs leverage technology that can quickly adapt to change and provide critical insights. “When a digital opportunity in the market becomes available, it’s important for any business or any government to seize that digital opportunity as quickly as possible,” shares Ross. “[That] often starts with having platforms in place, having the right kinds of solutions and the right kind of understanding to take advantage of it. By finance understanding the power of digital opportunities, and just how transformational it becomes to an organization, the more [finance] can move at the speed of IT.”

If you’d like to learn more, watch the full “#WDAYChats” conversation between Ross and Blair on YouTube.

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