In Delaware, a CIO does away with civil service, yielding better performace and a few hard feelings

Summary:CIO magazine honored Delaware CIO Tom Jarrett, who also serves as president of NASCIO, as part of their CIO 100 awards. The annual feature highlights the work of top CIOs in government, nonprofits and the private sector.

CIO magazine honored Delaware CIO Tom Jarrett, who also serves as president of NASCIO, as part of their CIO 100 awards. The annual feature highlights the work of top CIOs in government, nonprofits and the private sector. In an article featuring Jarrett and three other winners, CIO focused on Jarrett's radical remaking of the state's IT department: doing away with the civil service system, firing everyone and making them reapply for their old jobs. Here's what CIO said:

Nearly four years ago, the state of Delaware dissolved its underperforming IT department and hired CIO Tom Jarrett to rebuild it. Jarrett (at Governor Ruth Ann Minner's behest and with the legislature's blessing) also eliminated the civil service system that guaranteed IT workers job security and regular, albeit marginal, raises. Every employee had to reapply for a job in the new Delaware Department of Technology and Information. Workers who were rehired got salaries competitive with the private sector in the area but had to meet performance goals to keep their jobs.

Jarrett cut 90 percent of the old department's senior and middle management positions, and replaced the remaining ones with new functions and titles. He and his team then met with each of the department's 200 employees to tell them whether they had a future with the new agency.

Although there was no IT employees union defending their jobs, those who weren't rehired were guaranteed a job elsewhere in state government. In the end, 79 percent of the staff survived.

Jarrett says that since the transformation, his staff has finished all of its major projects on time and on or under budget. But his personnel practices have created a rift between the department and other state agencies that are still on the civil service system. Lynn Hersey-Miller, the department's chief program officer, says that her team is perceived as pushy because they have performance goals to meet. IT workers are also resented for their higher salaries. "If one of my folks makes a mistake, I've heard people say, 'You shouldn't be making those kinds of mistakes with the money you make,'" she says. "It's just a difference in culture."

But it's made a difference in the state of Delaware.

Topics: CXO, Government, IT Employment

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