Santa Barbara County plans to launch a standalone IT department at the start of the 2023-24 fiscal year to tighten up cybersecurity and eliminate duplicated efforts among various departments while providing them with flexibility to meet individual needs.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan to create the department and implement the hybrid IT system developed by consulting firm Gartner Inc. and recommended by Chris Chirgwin, the county’s new chief information officer.
Hiring three new employees for the Central IT Department was included in the decision.
Chirgwin was hired last September to put together Central IT, and on Tuesday he presented supervisors with the proposed Gartner system and a timeline for phased implementation.
“The county of Santa Barbara has historically taken a decentralized approach to IT,” Chirgwin said. “Most departments within the county manage their own IT, often resulting in a siloed approach to IT strategy and decisions.
“This model often results in duplication of efforts, inefficiencies and a lack of countywide strategic alignment,” he said.
But most California counties have standalone IT departments and a centralized or hybrid approach to IT, Chirgwin said.
“This approach mitigates risk through improved IT governance and through an enterprise approach to cybersecurity and compliance,” he said.
Chirgwin said since starting, he’s met with department heads and staff to determine their individual needs and prioritize initiatives and will soon deliver an updated five-year strategic plan with the responsibility of Central IT Department and ways to consolidate core functionality throughout the departments.
The startup cost for the initial year, essentially from January through June 2023, is estimated at $300,000, with $200,000 coming from the IT Fund and $100,000 from the Communication Fund.
Ongoing costs are expected to be $600,000 per year, with $200,000 coming from the Communication Fund and $400,000 from the General Fund.
Salary range for the three new program business leaders will be about $50 to $73 per hour.
Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann asked Chirgwin if he will provide a visual example of how the department will integrate the various applications being used by various departments.
“I believe actually we are well down a good path right now in regards to unifying disparate systems within the county,” he responded. “There is significant progress being made, and we still have a long ways to go, but we’re heading in a good direction.”
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said when the board asks new employees what they plan to do in their first 90 or 120 days, they usually say meet with department heads.
“Chris, you’ve accomplished more in the first few months than almost any county employee I’ve ever seen,” Lavagnino, adding he has full confidence in Chirgwin’s ability to get Central IT up and running.