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Q&A: New Florida CIO Eric Larson

Eric Larson was recently selected to serve as Florida’s chief information officer after incumbent Jason Allison unexpectedly announced his resignation effective March 7.

Allison is moving to the Foley & Lardner legal group. According to Erin Choy, external affairs manager for Florida’s Agency for State Technology (AST), Allison was not seeking a new opportunity when the firm offered him a position.

In an interview with 21st Century State & Local, Larson, who served as the state’s chief operations officer and chief technology officer before his unexpected ascension to CIO, discussed his new role and Florida’s technology priorities.

21C: What was your initial reaction to getting the position after CIO Allison’s resignation?

Eric Larson, Florida’s new CIO. (Photo: Agency for State Technology)

Eric Larson: “It took a little while to get used to the idea, but I’m really excited for the opportunity. I’ve worked for Florida for 13 years.”

21C: Which of Allison’s initiatives do you plan to continue?

EL: “AST just started in 2014, so my initiatives will be closely aligned to his.”

21C: How is AST different from previous iterations of Florida’s IT department?

EL: “The agency immediately prior to this one was mostly policy. They could recommend policy, but weren’t given the authority to pass rules. That hampered their effectiveness. AST also manages the states’ data center system.”

21C: What do you think will give AST more staying power than previous IT departments?

EL: “We have an increased level of authority. We manage projects with budgets over $25 million in Cabinet agencies.”

21C: How many data centers does the state of Florida have up and running?

EL: “We have 34 independent autonomous agencies with resources in one state data center. There are still others in existence who do not use this data center, like Lottery, Agriculture, and Financial Services. We had two state data centers when AST formed. We got 120 days’ notice last year to move the facility, and we did so, on time and under budget.”

21C: What goals do you want to carry out this year?

EL: “For legislative priorities, we’re trying to create a data officer position to manage GIS data across the state. For budget, last year we received money to perform risk assessments on 16 of the state’s agencies. This year, we want funding for the other 16 agencies. We also want to maintain a uniform approach to managing resources in data centers. Tactically, we plan to complete an enterprise architecture strategy and take a uniform approach to disaster recovery efforts. We’re establishing a multiyear plan for cybersecurity programs.”

21C: Which of your priorities do you think will be the most challenging to bring about?

EL: “We rightfully endure a large amount of scrutiny on all our projects for legislation. That’s to be expected and it’s certainly not a surprise. The chief data officer idea has gotten a lot of support, but priorities that require more funding are harder.”

Eleanor Lamb
About Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.
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