PLYMOUTH (WWJ) — More than 200 CIOs and other IT experts gathered Wednesday to share best practices on running data systems at Michigan Technology Leaders 2013.

Innovation, collaboration and mobility were key themes among speakers in the event, held at the Inn at St. John’s.

If you use a computer at work, and these days who doesn’t, what these people think is important to you — because it affects the way you work.

Ron Utterbeck, CIO of General Electric and managing director of GE’s Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center in Van Buren Township, said both GE customers and GE employees expect to use IT assets at any time, on any device, anywhere.

CIOs should look at how their employees use technology to play — that’s what they expect from their work systems as well.

As for security, Utterbeck said, “If you think of security as a moat around a castle, I want to let you know, your moat is porous, it has ladders across it, people are getting over it, and you don’t know what they are doing.”

Utterbeck said truly critical information has to stay off the network protected by “air space.” Everything else? Don’t worry.

He said the exciting thing about the AMSTC is that it has almost 1,000 GE IT employees from every GE division — from lighting to appliances to aviation to defense.

“We’re seeing great collaboration across businesses and technologies,” he said. “To have all those people in one place is huge … we see the results in speed.”

And, he said, there’s been no trouble recruiting top-notch IT talent from Michigan.

“Over 95 percent of our hires have been from within Michigan,” he said. “We’ve got a great talent base within Michigan. And our campus certainly doesn’t hurt our recruitment, it’s a fantastic campus.”

Utterbeck said allowing IT employees to “work anywhere, any time, any device” has led to an improved work ethic. “Our people eat this up,” he said. “We see them working nights and weekends.”

Utterbeck is a native of Dearborn Heights with a degree in computer and information systems engineering from Ohio State. His GE start was as an IT worker at a lighting factory in Lexington, Ky.

Later at MTL, a case study of implementing advanced IT systems was presented by Jane Sydlowski, president of Farmington Hills-based AMI Strategies, and Michael Kidder, senior vice president of corporate marketing at Troy-based Altair.

On June 1, AMI Strategies will begin using Altair’s HiQube data analysis software to perform its business function — analyzing corporate telecom and utility invoices against contracts and purchase orders, looking for overcharges or other anomalies.

The companies met and started negotiations toward the deal at last year’s MTL conference.

Later, state CIO David Behen said Michigan is using IT to turn the corner to grow more jobs, boost personal income, increase home sales and prices, and resume population growth.

He said the goal is “customer centric government” that delivers excellent services to customers both internal and external. Part of the strategy is to take services to customers, rather than expect citizens to come to government buildings.

A key move in the state’s new IT strategy was a 2011 study that showed a lack of adequate spending on IT infrastructure and innovation, high contractor costs to support legacy systems, an aging IT infrastructure, and a skills gap in the work force. There were also issues with cybersecurity.

In 2012, the state provided $47 million in ongoing IT funding to replace legacy systems. Eighteen major projects are currently under way, including replacing the state’s 19-year-old primary IT system. (An RFP on that massive project should hit the street in October, Behen said.) Also slated for replacement is the state sales and withholding tax computer system that brings in more than $13 billion a year.

The state also participated in opening the Michigan Cyber Range, an IT security training and testing center, in partnership with Ann Arbor-based Merit Network Inc., the connectivity provider for Michigan universities, schools, government and other nonprofits.

Looking forward, Behen said he’s planning on adding more services on mobile devices.

“Mobility and social media are in my opinion going to fundamentally change how we provide services to the citizens of the state of Michigan,” Behen said.

And he said the state is adopting a Bring Your Own Device strategy for customers and employees.

“We’re all talking here about recruiting talent — young talent, senior talent,” Behen said. “Let me tell you, the talent wants to come in with their own devices, and they don’t want you or me telling them what they can and can’t use.”


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