Government Technology

2010 Digital Cities Focus: Norfolk, Virginia

Norfolk, Va. IT Director Hap Cluff

January 19, 2011 By

How does an IT department become a civic leader? Talk to Hap Cluff, CIO of Norfolk, Va. -- one of 2010's top digital cities -- and he'll tell you it's not the bits and bytes, it's management expertise. Specifically, Cluff advocates Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," and "The Four Disciplines of Execution."

IT staff were trained and help spread the management expertise to the rest of the city, said Cluff. The role of IT in this regard and the principles such as "win-win" said Cluff, have laid the foundation for much of what the city has been able to accomplish with IT.

"Now," said Cluff, "when we walk into departments, they don't bring in their techie guys to discuss what's wrong with the desktop, they bring in their business process person." The management principles improve confidence, and makes turf less important, he explained. "By changing the way we do business," said Cluff, "and by leveraging technology, we have offered up $889,000 of annual reductions in the cost of operating the city."

IT has developed a governance model, said Cluff, and every project has a preestablished governance structure. "We know who the executive committee is, who the steering committee is, we know what the project subcommittees are. That's all predetermined and agreed to in writing with signatures by the departments. That's an essential component. So when we have a public safety team, for example, we know who the players are, and when we bring in a radio project, or make a change of some kind, we know who's there and how to bring the process forward. So get everybody identified, get buy-in from the very beginning and get everything in writing."

The city helped put together a public safety system for 16 different jurisdictions, said Cluff, and the hurdles were overcome because there were people in those jurisdictions who really wanted to make it happen, and agreements were obtained from all the police and fire chiefs. "They all saw the wisdom of it," said Cluff.

Here are some additional highlights of the city's improvements and changes which garnered a top finish in the 2010 Digital Cities Survey:

  • Norfolk founded the ORION/HRTacRan consortium, which connects 16 jurisdictions with microwave voice, data and video and a 700 MHz radio system.
  • Public safety vehicle connectivity: The city is on its third generation of laptops in a car since 2002. They have more bandwidth now, enabling use of e-mail, reporting systems and more.
  • Three patrol cars now have automated license plate scanners.
  • City employees use PeopleSoft Employee Self-Service.
  • The city is working with Old Dominion University, to bring students in as interns. In addition there is a military presence with spouses available for part-time work, seniors, etc. The strategy is to hire part-time staff that are or can become expert in a specialized field. That frees up IT staff from having to become expert in 20-25 specialties each.

Norfolk was bumped from first place in this year's Digital Cities by neighboring Richmond, joked Cluff, so Norfolk just hired Richmond's city manager in retaliation.

For more information on Norfolk's systems, contact Hap Cluff at

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