New SVP Brings Extensive Public Sector Experience to Socrata
With a history of wins in public sector IT and a passion for open data, Matt Miszewski joins the Socrata team this week as Senior Vice President of Sales. As a former Chief Information Officer of the state of Wisconsin — where he created the first statewide, service-oriented architecture — Miszewski understands the pains of rebuilding a government technology strategy from the ground up. The experience helped him to lead successful public-sector business groups at software companies such as Microsoft, Salesforce, and Digital Realty.
We talked to Miszewski about his first-hand experience with technology and government, his vision for the future, and how Socrata can help.
Q. Welcome! Can you tell us a bit about what brings you to Socrata?
A. I’ve been in the open data movement from the beginning, and [Socrata founder and CEO] Kevin Merritt and I have known each other since Socrata began. I was at Microsoft at the time, pushing an open government agenda from the perspective of the tech industry.
Recently, I was in the midst of taking some time off and pretty close to punching the retirement clock to relax with my wife in Carmel, California, when Kevin called me. My wife and I have an agreement: If my time is going to be spent working, let’s make sure it’s mission-oriented work. Work with a leadership team I believe in and a product that is not just looking to grow but has been oriented to grow from the start. Socrata hit all of these points for me.
Kevin spoke to me as someone with a mission of government service improvement. From an operational perspective on the inside, I have seen the frustrations that CIOs have. And, I’ve worked to address those challenges from the outside. I have wanted nothing more than to solve these problems for decades. I literally believe Socrata can solve some of the biggest problems in government in the next 10 years, if we develop and support the platform in the correct way. That’s what got me out of a nice retirement in beautiful Carmel, which is strong competition. But I’m thrilled to be back.
Q. You spent more than four years as a CIO for the state of Wisconsin. What were some of the challenges you experienced in terms of technology in government?
A. I served the public for quite some time. I ran for office during my career, worked for Congress, worked for Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, and I have helped a number of people get elected and stay elected over time. In terms of the problems, I always put it like this: political leaders are elected to put their hands on certain government levers. They get frustrated because the levers they have to pull are simply ineffective.
The problem is that, over time, government systems have developed into very hardened silos that make it difficult to share information across the board. My number-one attempt to solve the problem was with implementation of open architecture in Wisconsin — to make sure it was easier to get at different data sets inside and across governments. It is still the biggest problem within government.
Every state CIO and every federal CIO will tell you that the money they get is simply less effective because they don’t have data-sharing across statewide government. Not only is it the biggest problem but also the biggest cost center. They understand how big the IT challenge is but have no idea how to get a hold of it.
The problem is that, over time, government systems have developed into very hardened silos that make it difficult to share information across the board.
Q. Are there other issues slowing the progress?
A. The workforce inside every government is aging. The “silver tsunami” is very real and, as people are retiring, they are taking their skillsets with them. Meanwhile, the next generation of young folks — my daughter’s generation — are not going into public service because the technology is so antiquated.
The two problems Socrata can solve are changing the way government information is shared inside the walls of government, and upgrading the IT to a cloud-based infrastructure that younger developers want to work on. If we solve nothing but those two problems over the next two years in terms of government, it will be a win.
The two problems Socrata can solve are changing the way government information is shared inside the walls of government, and upgrading the IT to a cloud-based infrastructure that younger developers want to work on.
Q. Tell us a bit about your vision for the future. What do you think is possible for governments once this technology is in place?
A. I think we will have destroyed the barriers of government. We need to remember that citizens don’t look at government the way we do inside government, with its individual departments, ministries, and divisions. Citizens think of government in one way: “I have to go deal with the government.” Or, “I have to go register at DMV.” They assume their information and services are all connected on the back end, which is something those of us inside government know is completely wrong. I would be proud to say that we played a small part of making those connections, destroying those barriers. It would be a good thing.