Implementing Enterprise Technology in Rural America
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Implementing Enterprise Technology in Rural America

By Shane McDaniel, Director - IT, City of Seguin

Shane McDaniel, Director - IT, City of Seguin

When the City of Seguin, Texas decided the time had come to take the next step with technology and offered me the honor of becoming their first Director of IT in March of 2018, I brought twenty plus years of experience working in public and private industry in places such as Los Angeles, San Jose, Dallas, the DC area, and overseas. Having been born and raised in a small East Texas community I relished the opportunity to step away from the commotion of the places I had been living for so many years, but in accepting the challenge of delivering enterprise level IT to a rural community with a population just north of 30k I quickly learned I needed to adapt my approach to my new environment. The statement is a truism for any new role, but this was in part predicated by local culture which was a new experience for me.

Seguin is a beautiful, old school, main street hometown that is a gateway of sorts to South Texas. The slogan you’ll find celebrated around town is “It’s real,” which could not possibly be more accurate. Themanner in which the city operates is indicative and a direct reflection of the blue-collar vibe of the city. While working in large metro areas, I became accustomed to the luxuries of having resources with a litany of professional experience immediately available. What I discovered in my new environment was that there was a gap that had to be bridged between the existing methodologies versus overlying potential, and was that gap ever closed!

Once enough time had passed to garner an understanding of the environment minor tweaks were made to spark a shift in culture and professional growth, and while my new staff didn’t possess a bevy of evolving tech experience they more than made up for it with an infectious can-do approach to everything thrown their way. I have affectionately termed this manner of operations as “Country IT,” defined as a results-driven approach to delivering technology solutions attained via the power of an individual’s spirit and often through nontraditional means. When a culture is established with no limitations the impossible can become possible through a “Country IT” approach, and it’s amazing what can be accomplished.

“When a culture is established with no limitations the impossible can become possible through a “Country IT” approach, and it’s amazing what can be accomplished”

Over the past eighteen months we’ve stripped down and rebuilt the private network infrastructure and added layer three routing to a previously flat network, upgraded our security platform holistically, and extended the city fiber ring establishingthe foundation for all future facilities to be physically connected to the city network while building high availability/redundancy via rerouting ISP’s through said ring. We built a trail cam platform in house from the ground up for our parks system at a seventy percent cost reduction over professional services. A document management system was implemented, which for one of the oldest cities in the state going from paper to virtual was easier said than done. We upgraded to an enterprise video management platform, stood up a new public safety CAD becoming the first agency in the state to connect to a regional hub resulting in the capability for real-time data sharing for responders in the field, implemented a body cams solution, opened a new facility, brought GPS technology to our local golf course, and have begun the process of adopting a cybersecurity mindset across the city. Left of the dot upgrades were completed on our ERP, Courts, telecom, and wireless platforms. As if that weren’t enough, we updated the city’s IT policy, established a formal on call rotation, expanded our operational hours to better support citywide staff, initiated an intern program and created more drawings and knowledge base documentation than you can shake a stick at.

The department sustained so much success early on we had several much-needed large capital infrastructure projects approved for the current fiscal year. On the docket isa complete radio infrastructure overhaul, one that will allow for public safety area coverage improvements alongside a capability to collaborate directly with regional agencies. A hyperconvergence systems infrastructure is staged to go live soon after that. It should be noted that everything referenced was accomplished with eight full-time IT staff, most of which being graduates of the local ISD, and a handful of strategic partners.

Through the team’s accomplishments we’ve received state level awards, a letter of congratulations from a senator, had multiple employees of the month, and have had department efforts referenced in the local paper more times than I can remember. Professional growth through formal education has been embraced as multiple staff members are working on their bachelors and several have earned industry certifications. It’s an impressive team to say the least and one that I could not personally be more proud of. Through the accomplishments and accolades, we have shifted the culture within and outside of the IT Department. By turning the corner from a reactive way of managing IT to proactively identifying opportunities and owning the communication necessary to deliver results we’ve established a level of report and accountability citywide that has raised awareness and value holistically for the department.

At the end of the day what I learned as a newly minted IT executive in Texas local government is that the IT Department seemingly only needed an advocate, someone to convey the message, set the tone, establish the vision, and bridge the communication gap between technology and senior leadership. The talent of the staff was always there, waiting to manifest excellence. They were and still are ready and willing to be all in on whatever is deemed necessary to deliver enterprise level technology on behalf of the city. Through our Country IT approach we have yet to run into something we as a group could not overcome. Big things are happening in our small community, it’s an exciting time to be in the City of Seguin!

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