Bottom Line Per.... W. Val Oveson

By Anna Maria Virzi Print this article Print

W. Val Oveson, Utah's chief information officer since January 2003, is responsible for carrying out the state's e-government initiatives. Oveson is a Certified Public Accountant, formerly a PricewaterhouseCoopers' director of knowledge management, and had

W. Val Oveson, Utah's chief information officer since January 2003, is responsible for carrying out the state's e-government initiatives. A Certified Public Accountant, he previously was PricewaterhouseCoopers' director of knowledge management and had been the national taxpayer advocate at the Internal Revenue Service.

Q. What metrics do you use to evaluate bottom-line results?

A. We use an ROI [return on investment] that's pretty traditional, but we struggle with it. We do have criteria on large projects: Are they completed on time and on budget?

Q. What do you struggle with?

A. Putting a value on citizens' time. That's a customer service kind of measurement-measuring how much time is saved [by an e-government initiative] and putting a value on that.

Q. How far did you get with this idea?

A. In discussions. We actually do the more traditional kinds of ROI: how much we'll save the state, how much it will cost versus the benefits.

Q. How does that apply to what are you working on?

A. Our major emphasis has been on e-government. We are measuring usage, and that's very important. It [usage] is not as high as we like and we're working on getting it higher.

Q. For example?

A. Online motor-vehicle [renewal] applications for licenses and registration have moved from 12% to 20%. Considering that people don't like to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, you'd think it would be 100%. For years, we've had a mail-registration and that's never hit more than 20%. So we need a combination of advertising and PR [public relations] to change people's habits.

Q. What did you work on at the IRS?

A. I headed a team of 2,500 employees solving systematic taxpayer problems including the earned income tax credit, which is extremely complicated.

Q. Were you involved in information-technology projects at the IRS? A. We had our own I.T. problems. At one point, we had employees with three terminals on their desk. It was a security issue because some systems [our unit] needed were not allowed on the main IRS system. I fought hard to consolidate those systems so we'd have only one terminal. We made some progress.

Q. What did you learn from your experience at the IRS?

A. Sociology is a lot more important than technology. There are a lot of things we can do with technology, but dealing with organizational politics-communication and interpersonal relationships-are big issues. Getting people to collaborate. The major challenge of any CIO, both in public and private organizations, is to get information above the silo so you can share it across boundaries.

This article was originally published on 2004-04-01
Executive Editor
Anna Maria was assistant managing editor Forbes.com. She held the posts of news editor and executive editor at Internet World magazine and was city editor and Washington correspondent for the Connecticut Post, a daily newspaper in Bridgeport. Anna Maria has a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island.
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