Five Steps for Improving Government and Public Engagement Through Digital Innovation, with Rachel S. Haot (Part 1)

Rachel S. Haot CDO of the Year 2014

Rachel S. Haot – CDO of the Year 2014

First of a two-part series

Right up front, you need a strategy — a strategy, that is, for creating the right digital strategy.

That advice was shared by Rachel S. Haot, the 2014 CDO of the Year, at her fireside chat given at the 2014 CDO Summit held at the Time Warner Conference Center in New York City on April 22.

At the Summit, the CDO Club named Haot the 2014 CDO of the Year. She is only the second CDO to be awarded this recognition: The winner of the inaugural 2013 CDO of the Year award was Teddy Goff, who served as Digital Director at “Obama for America” in 2008 and 2012.

Haot is currently the Chief Digital Officer and Deputy Secretary for Technology of the State of New York, and had previously served as the Chief Digital Officer for New York City in the Bloomberg administration (January 2011–December 2013).

Rachel S. Haot and CDO Club Founder David Mathison

CDO Club Founder David Mathison with Rachel S. Haot

While serving New York City, she established the first urban digital roadmap in the country, and by October 2013 the city achieved 100% of the roadmap’s stated objectives.

Haot’s many recognized accomplishments while serving as New York City’s CDO included the overhauling of the official city website (; tripling the city’s social media audience; and expanding the city’s OpenData platform from 350 public data sets offered at launch to over 2,000.

CDO Club founder David Mathison remarked that Haot is the prototype — a CDO of the future — like a “Super-CDO.

Mathison believes that she is unique among CDOs in that she possesses a powerful, hybrid skill set that combines the innovation skills typical of a Chief Digital Officer; knows intimately how to build a data-driven culture typical of a Chief Data Officer; and, unlike both the former and the latter, employs exceptional social media marketing and engagement skills typical of a Chief Marketing Technologist or CMO, as evidenced by her ranking by the CDO Club as one of the Top 5 CDOs on both Klout and Twitter:

Top 10 CDOs by Klout score - CDO Club 2014                                               Top 10 CDOs on Twitter by CDO Club 2014

It is therefore no surprise that subsequent to her fireside chat at the recent CDO Summit, the mayors of both New York City and Boston (with populations totaling 9 million) announced they will be hiring CDOs.

And, just this week, the U.K.’s Home Office in London announced that it too is seeking a Chief Digital Officer.

Watch Rachel’s fireside chat on “Improving government and public engagement through digital innovation”  from the recent CDO Summit below:

As you can see, Haot’s fireside chat at the CDO Summit in April 2014, was so richly laden with useful information that we decided to turn it into a two-part series titled:

Five Steps for Improving Government and Public Engagement through Digital Innovation

We’ve summarized those steps below — and added one more (step 6), as follows:

Step 1: Create the Digital Strategy

Rachel S. Haot

Rachel S. Haot – CDO of the Year 2014

On her appointment to the position of Chief Digital Officer, Haot said her natural inclination was to “dive in and start building things.” Yet she knew better, so she held back and moved forward more carefully to take in the lay of the land.

First, Haot said, she had to get her footing. The city has over 300,000 employees — about the size of GE’s global operations. So the first critical step was developing relationships: figuring out who her colleagues were, meeting many of them in person, and building a relationship of trust with them.

Haot also realized quickly that she couldn’t simply focus on where the city was lacking digitally (a needs assessment), but rather on where were the good digital assets and programs that already existed in the city (an assets assessment).

She found these, spoke with the individuals spearheading those initiatives, and asked them what they needed to move their projects forward, and what KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) they employed to measure success.

Those conversations allowed Haot both to align their goals with her own and to help ensure that her successes would mean their successes, as well.

Step 2: Get Input from Internal and External Stakeholders

In addition to taking into account the city’s more than 300,000 employees, Haot also needed to solicit input from a wide range of other key stakeholders: the city’s 8.4 million citizen “customers” speaking some 800 different languages, key department heads, the extremely important private-sector tech community, and the academic world, specifically in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

Haot directly solicited the public’s concerns. For example, she shared an example of one question she heard from many: “Why isn’t there an app to take a picture of a pothole on our smartphone and send it and its GPS location to the city?”

She wanted to find the answer. She discovered that, in fact, such an app did exist, but it had not been well publicized. So when the city relaunched its site, she made sure that that app was updated and publicized front and center.

Haot also worked to get buy-in from department heads, and did so by finding internal champions, figuring out how to align their goals, and implementing the proper incentives to motivate people to take action.

For example, she discovered that clients of the city’s Department of Small Business Services were overwhelmed trying to figure out which digital options to pursue. So she helped the department solve that problem by establishing partnerships with tech companies like Tumblr and Square to create a digital training curriculum. That curriculum was deployed to train the trainers, and eventually some 1,000 people graduated from the course.

In the private tech sector, Haot noted such a great willingness to help and submit ideas that she did not have to worry much about soliciting involvement. Instead, the challenge was to filter all the suggestions pouring in. So her strategy was to winnow down the ideas, freeing the germ from the chaff, by focusing on those that aligned with an already articulated problem.

“It had to be driven by the end goal and end strategy,” she explained. “We didn’t want to just do digital for digital’s sake.”

Step 3: Enlist Support from the Top

Rachel S. Haot

Rachel S. Haot – CDO of the Year 2014

We all know that top-level support is vital for any new initiative, and here Haot was extremely fortunate.

Not only did she have that support from the city’s “CEO” — then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg — but the mayor was renowned for his very leadership and success in the tech and financial industries, and was the primary booster of the city’s digital initiative.

“The very move of his appointing a digital officer,” Haot said, “sent a message that this is a priority. It really set the tone.”

Now that Haot is working for the State of New York, what kind of support can she count on from her current top executive, Governor Andrew Cuomo?

Haot said she is fortunate again because one of his key stated priorities is to improve the state’s customer service — and Haot’s digital initiatives will certainly play a key role in making that happen.

The governor told Haot that current methods available for citizens to engage with the state government are unwieldy and cumbersome.

Why, for example, Cuomo wondered, should a citizen have to check in with multiple agencies to apply for fishing or hunting licenses, park passes, and other permits? To simplify the process, the state established a new license center that enables citizens to apply for multiple permits in a single place.

Haot is now taking stock of other assets around the state — the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and others — to look for additional opportunities to build on that concept and provide streamlined, effective customer service.

Step 4: Work as Part of a Team

Good CDOs are not lone wolves, but work as part of a highly coordinated pack.

At the City of New York, Haot was involved with two types of teams. One was her own small team that reported directly to her.

Yet her team also included other city department executives, as well. These players included the city’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), the city’s press office staff, and the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

Haot says that when it came time for everyone to sit around the table, each department would focus on their goals and how they measure success.

Then, her role would be to “knit it all together.”

Step 5: Execute

Rachel S. Haot

Rachel S. Haot – CDO of the Year 2014

“We had a road map that we needed to accomplish before the end of the administration,” Haot explained, so she was facing a clear deadline.

The road map that she initially created had a total of 32 objectives. Not only did her team accomplish 100% of those objectives before the end of the administration, but along the way eight new ones were added and completed, for an extraordinary total of 40.

“We had a clear end point with the end of administration,” she said.

“But,” Haot added, “of course you are never done.”

To that point, we can add one more step to Haot’s five:

Step 6: Review, Revise, and Repeat

We added this extra step because the digital landscape is evolving so quickly that CDOs like you will have to constantly reevaluate your strategy.

Like happiness, digital is a journey, not a destination.

It’s important to review your results daily, weekly, or monthly; to revise them intelligently each quarter; and then to repeat the strategy every year, starting over again at step 1.

Follow Rachel HaotGovernor Mario CuomoNYLovesTech, and us, on Twitter here.

Part 2 of this series will highlight several innovations initiated by Haot while building her digital map for New York City and will share the lessons they offer for all Chief Digital Officers.

David Mathison, Rachel S. Haot & Michelle Oster

CDO Club Founder David Mathison presents 2014 CDO of the Year award to Rachel S. Haot

NOTE: The CDO Club is now a membership site. You’ll need to register in order to continue enjoying our posts. To register or for more information, click here

If you are tasked with understanding what digital leaders must do in order to succeed in almost any industry, the best place to learn more is at the fast-approaching NYC Chief Digital Officer Summitpresented by Capgemini on April 29 2015.

Take advantage of our Super Early Bird Discount for Amsterdam in September 2015, London in October 2015, Sydney in February 2016, and Toronto in July 2016. Reserve your place now:

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NYC 2015 Speakers:

Jessica jo

Dr. Didier Bonnet
SVP and Global Practice Leader
Capgemini Consulting

Jessica Federer
Chief Digital Officer

Jo Ann Saitta
Chief Digital Officer
The CDM Group

Johanna Murphy b02a4bc429cd7238f2590a5442987374_400x400 332789d

Johanna Murphy
CMO & Digital Director
Ivanka Trump

Sree Sreenivasan
Chief Digital Officer
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sumita Singh
Senior Vice President
Marketing, Corporate Markets

The CDO Summit is the “must-attend” digital event of the year. The 2013 and 2014 CDO Summits received stellar endorsements from dozens of speakers and attendees alike:

“Sometimes a conference comes along that hits the trifecta – hot topic, high-caliber attendees, and stellar location. The first Chief Digital Officer Summit reached that mark with ease, and I look forward to attending the next one.”

Eric Hellweg
Managing Director, Digital Strategy/Editorial Director
Harvard Business Review

“The Chief Digital Officer Summit was outstanding. Why? Candid panels with top players in the digital community. Splendid break-time conversations. And, savvy facilitation, Mathison Style.”

Margaret Molloy
Chief Marketing Officer

“David, here’s a handy C^3 test for conference value: Did I learn at least three new perspectives? Check. Did I meet at least three interesting people? Check. Did I take back at least three relevant pieces of news I can use? Check. Flying colors for the Chief Digital Officer Summit 2013! Thank you so much, and yes, I’d be very pleased to participate next year!”

Perry Hewitt
Chief Digital Officer
Harvard University

“Congratulations on an exceptional first CDO Summit. I truly enjoyed all the panel discussions as well as the intimate environment where I was able to meet such amazing people. The conversations were very enlightening and touched on all the challenges my team and I face on a technology, content, and culture front. I look forward to participating next year.”

Laxmi Wordham
Chief Digital Officer
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research

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