CTM Annual Report 2023

Message from the Chief Information Officer, Kerrica Laake

When reflecting on the past year, the main theme that comes to mind is digital transformation. I was honored to be selected as the Interim Chief Information Officer, and in September, I began serving as the City's Chief Information Officer. With more than 29 years of technology experience with Austin Energy and experience within CTM as the Deputy Chief Information Officer, I was eager to push towards timely progress on the transformation efforts that were underway and get started on some additional large-scale, key projects.
As the centralized Information Technology (IT) leader for the City, CTM must bring Austin’s municipal services into the technological future. To do so, as established in our departmental Strategic Plan, we need to retire outdated systems, standardize technology strategies, make systems more efficient and effective, and make the City an incubator for excellence in customer service and leadership. 
We have seen great strides this year so far with regards to the digital workplace, providing our services as a catalog, improved security, and management of resources, providing standards and guidelines on patching, digital accessibility, and Artificial Intelligence, and IT asset management. We have also initiated some of the large, impactful projects such as the Human Capital Management project and the Licensing and Permitting solution for the City.
We have also codified our guiding principles to assist with our strategic technology decision-making to focus on decreasing administrative burden and simplifying environments and a shift to redesigning solutions to leverage cloud while improving processes and end-user satisfaction.
As such, I am pleased to share some of our 2023 accomplishments with you and am looking forward to the continued digital transformation that will occur throughout 2024 and beyond.


Leadership



Kerrica Laake

Chief Information Officer


Heather Turner

Deputy Chief Information Officer, Enterprise Applications & Project Support

Steven Martin

Deputy Chief Information Officer, Enterprise Infrastructure


Sharif Washington

Deputy Chief Information Officer, Public Safety


About CTM

Our Mission: To deliver technology solutions that make the City work.

Our Vision: To be a best-in-class model for trusted technology solutions and leadership.


Our Values: Integrity | Service | Diversity | Collaboration | Drive


The Communications & Technology Management (CTM) department is the City of Austin's (COA's) principal information technology department. CTM focuses on the delivery and operations of vital information technology, infrastructure, network, and telecommunication services, continuous service improvements, and solutions to enable customer success. CTM also teams up with regional partners to improve public safety communication throughout Central Texas. 


Year in Review

Digital Accessibility Policy

To help COA staff meet the requirements for digital accessibility, the CTM Digital Services team published a new Digital Accessibility Policy, effective September 1, 2023.
Everyone benefits from digital accessibility. Focusing on accessibility ensures that digital properties are accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning and neurological.

Open Data Portal Upgrade

The Open Data Portal received an upgrade in 2023 that gave the site a fresh look and feel, improved navigation, and improved the overall user experience, while migrating more than 4,500 data assets to the enhanced system.
The Open Data Portal, in use since 2011, provides easy access to open data in the form of datasets (collections of raw data) and visualizations (the interpretation of that data through tables, charts, graphs, or other tools).

Citywide Multifactor Authentication

This year, CTM Cybersecurity Operations expanded MFA across the entire organization to prevent unauthorized sign-ins to City and hosted systems and thwart cyberattacks.
MFA prevents bad actors from using your credentials to access systems and steal data. CTM offers multiple MFA options to allow advanced security while simultaneously improving user accessibility. 
In addition to improvements to MFA, CTM was able to implement an option to report fraud right within the MFA app. Using MFA, helps prevent cyberattacks and keeps City data safer. 

GATRRS Radio Tower Construction

The Wireless Communication Services Division, a part of CTM that focuses on highly reliable emergency communications, manages and operates the Greater Austin Travis County Regional Radio System (GATRRS) and facilitates its use by other agencies throughout the state.  
During 2015, Austin and Travis County were hit by multiple flood events resulting in death and destruction. Following those floods, an in-depth analysis indicated there were 66,460 residents (of which 41,540 resided in low-to-moderate income homes) in Southeast Austin/Travis County neighborhoods which were not effectively covered by the existing GATRRS system.
To better prepare for future rainstorms and flooding events, the COA applied for and was awarded a $5 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Texas General Land Office, with the endorsement of the Austin-Travis County Homeland Security and Management Department and approval from the Austin City Council. The funding covered the construction of two radio communication towers with outfitted antenna systems, microwave network connectivity, radio shelter with radio equipment, and back-up power and generators for the needed radio coverage and capacity in the southeast Austin/Travis County area. 
The project provided: 
  • Technological upgrades in both coverage and capacity to handle radio call volume during significant emergency events
  • Benefit to public safety and public service responders to respond to calls for service by residents 
  • Equitable coverage and capacity to meet the needs of residents who live in the “Area of Benefit” 
  • Improved public safety radio communications to the Circuit of the Americas facility
  • Coverage and capacity to the Travis County Del Valle TCSO Correctional Center 
  • Coverage and capacity to ABIA 


CTM Service Catalog

As part of our strategic planning, we knew that we needed to develop a CTM Service Catalog. CTM takes pride in offering a diverse and dynamic range of services, which are now available in the CTM Service Catalog. This catalog serves as a tool for our teams and our customers to use when they need to find software or solutions to meet business needs or just to help navigate CTM’s services.

Decommissioning of Leased Office Space

To support the mission of the Strategic Facilities Governing Team (SFGT) to consolidate into City-owned locations, CTM moved out of one of its leased office spaces located off Riverside Drive. This was a large undertaking, but it came with many pay offs in that CTM was able to offer other departments equipment and furniture.

Digital Workforce Optimization

Since the pandemic, people who could work remotely continued to do so with increased efficiencies. In reviewing network traffic patterns, the Infrastructure and Operations team optimized the network for remote work. In addition, staff file directories were successfully migrated to the cloud with no operational disruption or loss of data. The migration decreased administrative burden, increased accessibility, simplified our environment, and eliminated a cost center. Both of these initiatives support a flexible workforce, promoting efficiencies.



Service Desk Improvements

The recent enhancements to the CTM Service Desk's ticketing system represent a significant stride towards optimizing operational efficiency and user experience. Tickets that were not able to be closed by the Tier 1 team were routed to the teams who could quickly respond and resolve incidents. With a commitment to delivering seamless and innovative solutions, the CTM team has meticulously fine-tuned the ticketing platform, introducing a series of improvements that streamline processes and elevate the overall service delivery. 


CTM TechConnect Program

This year, CTM set out to re-imagine how to build a Citywide IT community with opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing throughout the City. A charter was finalized in February. The goal of this program is to support a unified approach for IT in the City of Austin to include communication and collaboration.
The outcomes include:
  • Effective and efficient technology support
  • Effective and timely IT-related communication process and channels
  • Clear direction and increased adoption of enterprise technology solutions and best practices
  • Increased staff productivity
  • Reduced risk to City technology
  • Reduced redundancy and increased cost savings in technology purchases
Department Directors have identified primary and secondary program members known as IT Liaisons. A City Tech Connect meeting occurs every other month for information sharing.

Successful Upgrade of Enterprise Data Services

The Enterprise Data Services team recently accomplished a significant milestone by completing the upgrade of the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). This vital system handles a diverse range of application integrations across the City. The upgrade supported Austin Energy, Austin Fire, Austin Resource Recovery, Austin Water, Transportation and Public Works, and multiple enterprise applications.
The upgrade project, initiated in January 2023, involved the creation and management of a parallel environment featuring Linux and Windows Server operating systems. To ensure a seamless transition, a unique testing methodology was devised that greatly reduced the necessary work and attention of affected departments.
The successful upgrade of the ESB not only addressed critical software and support issues but demonstrated the power of collaboration within the City of Austin's various departments.

Change Enablement Aligns CTM with Industry Standards

CTM published its Change Enablement Policy to set standards and adhere to best practices, ITILv4, when change takes place in the technology environment. The procedure: 
  • Provides enforceable standards 
  • Mitigates risk 
  • Builds a reliable dataset for accurate metrics and program analysis 
  • Creates an auditable database of changes, and 
  • Identifies and develops pathways for automation 
The implementation enables successful change implementation while maintaining the stability, reliability, and security of IT services that support the operations of various City departments and the delivery of services to residents and businesses. 

Transformative Leap: Advancing Generative AI Standards and Integration

CTM has achieved several significant milestones in the realm of Generative AI. Our teams have laid the foundation to use Generative AI to provide a One-City virtual assistant to help our residents answer questions around City services. CTM is in the process of establishing a responsible AI governance model to ensure lifecycle management and monitoring of the various AI tools. One of the pivotal achievements was the release of the Generative AI Standards document. This document sets the foundation for consistent and secure practices in the realm of Generative AI, establishing a framework for future endeavors.
This initiative aligns with leadership's vision of innovation, responsiveness to stakeholder needs, and leveraging emerging technologies to provide excellent customer service. The availability of this infrastructure positions CTM as a forward-thinking and customer-centric entity.
The next phase involves deploying a secure, private instance of Generative AI for City staff, ensuring heightened security and privacy measures. CTM plans to collaborate with City departments to implement proofs of technology based on the specific use cases identified in the AI Use and Interest Survey conducted earlier this year. These standards offer a secure, low-overhead, and cost-effective environment, opening opportunities for exploration and innovation across various departments.
With this solid foundation, the CTM is poised to harness the potential of AI and Machine Learning, leading to innovative solutions that benefit both the city and its residents.



Navigating Strategically with Roadmaps

This year has been marked by significant strides in long-term planning and strategic visioning, spearheaded by the Business Relationship Management (BRM) team. The first of many comprehensive roadmaps for each department CTM partners with have been created and published.
BRM began working on the Roadmaps project in 2020 to serve as visual strategic plans, offering a holistic view of the sequencing of work and providing a unique perspective for departments engaged in long-term planning. Roadmaps enable departments to visualize and understand the chronological sequence of their projects.
The roadmaps have been instrumental in highlighting the priorities for leadership teams, ensuring that our departmental efforts align with organizational objectives.

IT Asset Management Phase I Complete

CTM successfully completed Phase I of the IT Asset Management (ITAM) and Hardware Asset Management (HAM) initiative.  
This project laid a solid foundation for efficient IT asset discovery, tracking, and management. During this phase, the Enterprise Asset Management team was able to consolidated tracking of more than 21,000 devices (PCs, laptops and tablets). 
The success in Phase I underscores the city’s commitment to achieving excellence in IT through collaboration and all IT groups working to verify and validate existing assets. As the project continues into Phase II, the Enterprise Asset Management teams will: 
  • Identify and classify additional equipment, including routers and switches 
  • Document costs and depreciation data to assist with ITAM purchases and asset replacement and maintenance 
  • Implement Software Asset Management (SAM) to manage and automate software 

Digital Timekeeping Final Phase

CTM and the project partners, the Human Resources Department and Financial Services Department, are in the final phase of the digital timekeeping project, aimed at standardizing timekeeping practices across departments. The deployment of the digital platform among 42 departments so far provides benefits for both staff and the City as a whole:
  • New Automated Processes: The implementation leverages cutting-edge technology for automated time and attendance processes. This not only reduces the burden of manual tasks but also ensures efficiency and accuracy in data management.
  • Elimination of Manual Processes: Farewell to paper timesheets and the cumbersome manual processes associated with them. The digital platform replaced these outdated methods, leading to a more streamlined and eco-friendly approach.
  • Accessible Time and Leave Information: With the new system in place, employees have real-time access to their time and leave information at their fingertips. This accessibility empowers them to manage their schedules and leave more effectively.
  • Reduced Errors: The implementation comes with regular notifications for real-time corrections, minimizing timecard and payroll errors. This not only saves time but also instills greater confidence in the accuracy of payrolls.

Other CTM Enterprise PMO Projects Completed in 2023

In 2023, the CTM Enterprise Project Management Office (PMO) worked with more than 20 departments across the City. This Office achieved significant milestones through the successful completion of several key projects. These endeavors spanned diverse areas, reflecting the PMO's commitment to enhancing operational efficiency and fostering innovation. Amongst many projects being managed across the portfolio, some of the noteworthy projects completed included:
  • 311 Standardization 
  • Building Services Security Upgrade 
  • EDIMS Phase 2 
  • Infolinx on-prem to cloud migration 
  • SMBR B2Gnow Implementation 
CTM has provided this annual report to provide transparency in the department’s status, achievements, and goals. If you have any questions about the content provided here, please email us at CTMComms@austintexas.gov.