Headquarters
69 West Washington
Suite 2700
Chicago, IL 60602
Phone Number
312-603-1400
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Mission

The Bureau of Technology (BOT) plans, develops and maintains enterprise technology services according to its guiding principles: lifecycle management, cloud-first, shared-first, sustainability, transparency, continuity, Countywide standardization and reuse before buy and buy before build. BOT provides cost-effective and easy-to-use services for residents and County employees.

Mandates and Key Activities

  • Deliver and manage Countywide shared technology resources
  • Direct Countywide technology policy and the establishment of Countywide technology standards, including guidance under the County’s Open Government Ordinance (Ordinance 14-0076)
  • Review all technology procurements to discourage duplicative spending, encourage efficient returns on investment, and ensure compliance with County technology standards and policies (Ordinance 14-1232)
  • Collaborate with the Information Security Working Group to establish and report on the Information Security Framework, as well as take appropriate actions to protect the County’s network against security threats (Ordinance 14-1481)
  • Facilitate the integration of an automated Cook County Criminal Justice System and update the Board on progress toward such goal (Resolution 13-2002)
  • Review all Software and Technology Hardware Asset Inventories and prepare a consolidated report and strategic document annually for submission to the Board (Ordinance No. 16-3977).
  • Provide access to County GIS data in accordance with County ordinance (Chapter 2, Article IV, Division 3, Subdivision II, §2-220).

About Technology at Cook County

Cook County is the second-largest county in the country and is structured somewhat differently from many other counties. Residents vote for a 17-member Board of Commissioners, an at-large Board President, an Assessor, a Clerk of the Court, a County Clerk, 250+ Judges, a Sheriff, a Recorder of Deeds, a State’s Attorney, a three-member Board of Review and a Treasurer. The County also has other separate offices, such as the Health and Hospitals System, the Forest Preserve District and the Public Defender, which are under the President but have separate IT.

All County government offices share Wide Area Network (WAN), telecom, data centers and multiple enterprise contracts. The Bureau of Technology (BOT) is the central office that handles enterprise technology. BOT is headed by a Chief Information Officer (CIO) who must concur on all technology procurements countywide.

BOT History

BOT began as a mainframe shop with a limited desktop service operation. Prior to the current administration, inter-departmental collaboration was often discussed but never attempted in an organized or serious fashion. IT consolidation and multi-jurisdictional collaboration were considered even more unrealistic and unattainable. Because BOT had not adjusted to the rapid changes in the IT world and lacked a well-rounded and skills-rich staff, it began to lose credibility among other County departments.  Unfortunately, departments began to seek IT solutions on their own, even building independent operations to provide the services that BOT should have provided. A siloed environment took hold, which required immediate attention.

An excessively siloed environment is undesirable for several reasons:

  • Each agency having a separate contract with vendors loses savings through economies of scale.
  • If agencies choose different technologies to solve similar problems, then each technology will require different knowledge and perhaps personnel to support.
  • As the number of technologies and support models increase, the complexity of creating safety and security standards increases exponentially.

The gradual restructuring of BOT has had yielded positive results. BOT is now collaborating with all County departments on an array of projects and recently consolidated some service desk activities. These changes have produced an increasingly efficient operation that is better prepared for the future.   

  • 1997 — Bureau of Information Technology and Automation (“BITA”) was formed in order to provide “users with integrated and automated systems and services that could assist them in performing their daily tasks more efficiently.” BITA initially consolidated Geographic Information Systems (“GIS”), Management Information Systems (“MIS”), and Office Automation (“OA”) functions. Shortly thereafter, Central Services (“CS”) was consolidated into BITA “due to the synergies involved regarding telecommunications and the incoming Wide Area Network (WAN).”
  • 1998 — The newly consolidated Enterprise GIS Dept. issues an RFP to develop a comprehensive repository of mapping files and data.
  • 2002 — Cook County Board of Commissioners passes an ordinance creating a GIS Fund. The Fund is supplied exclusively by document recording fees.
  • 2002 — Cook County Board of Commissioners formally establishes the Cook County Integrated Criminal Justice Information Systems (CCICJIS) committee, charging the committee with the creation of an integrated criminal justice strategic plan.
  • 2008 — BITA rebranded as Bureau of Technology
  • 2008 — Bureau of Technology certified by Illinois Commerce Commission to provide telecommunications interexchange carrier services (“IXC”) and local exchange carrier services (“LEC”), allowing us to put fiber-optic cable in the ground to build the County’s 10-gig broadband backbone.
  • 2011 — Cook County Board of Commissioners passes Open Government ordinance, requiring County agencies to make open data available to the public. BOT launches County Open Data Catalog to house County data in an open and freely accessible format to the public.
  • 2013 — Cook County Board of Commissioners passes resolution requiring the BOT Chief Information Officer to pursue the development of an automated, integrated criminal justice information system.
  • 2014 — Cook County Board of Commissioners passes ordinance requiring BOT to concur on all technology-related procurements.
  • 2015 — Cook County Board of Commissioners passes ordinance requiring the County Board President to appoint a Chief Information Officer with the advice and consent of Board Commissioners.
  • 2016 — Cook County Board of Commissioners passes ordinance requiring BOT to analyze and report on annual software and hardware asset inventory submissions from all County agencies.
  • 2017 — BOT completed the biometric Time and Attendance system rollout for all offices across the County. BOT completed the first data exchange on the Countywide Integrated Justice Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) system and rolled out the Integrated Tax Processing System. BOT also began work on the Countywide Voice Over Internet (VOIP) communications system.
  • 2018 – Cook County Board of Commissioners passes Information Technology Consolidation Ordinance, tasking the Chief Information Officer with studying the viability of consolidating data center and other IT functions, creating a consolidated help desk, and encouraging the development of shared IT policies and standards.

The BOT of today is made up of several different teams whose work is very closely related and integrated. BOT is now more effectively providing reliable public-facing and back-office services. Today BOT better understands how and when to utilize on-premise, externally hosted and cloud-based application and the associated infrastructure. There is a better understanding of potential cybersecurity threats, and the necessary preventive and remedial actions to take. BOT has strengthened its exceptionally reliable wide area network that generates high praise from user agencies. Its GIS team has evolved into one that now regularly applies its mapping expertise to help expose and address pressing challenges (e.g. the mapping of opioid overdoses and gun-related deaths). And BOT’s relatively young project management office helps track and guide an array of initiatives that historically lacked proper management.

The merging of different teams within BOT, combined with the creation of job descriptions better suited to today’s increasingly complex IT world, are allowing BOT to attract and retain the talent that it needs to more effectively serve the nation’s second-largest county.   

Cook County Technology Workforce

By aggressively recruiting mid-level and senior-level managers with relevant subject matter expertise, and a commitment to working collaboratively, The Bureau of Technology is now more effectively providing reliable public-facing and back-office services. It has a stronger understanding today of how to utilize on-premise and externally-hosted applications, as well as the associated infrastructure. There is a better understanding of potential cybersecurity threats, and the necessary preventive and remedial actions to take. The Bureau of Technology has strengthened its exceptionally reliable wide area network that generates praise from user agencies. Its GIS team has evolved into one that now regularly applies its mapping expertise to help expose and address pressing challenges (e.g. the mapping of opioid overdoses and gun-related deaths). The merging of different teams within BOT, combined with the creation of job descriptions better suited to today’s increasingly complex IT world, are allowing The Bureau of Technology to attract and retain the talent that it needs to more effectively serve the nation’s second-largest county.

The restructuring of the Bureau of Technology outlined above, with employee development as its foundation, has had positive results. The Bureau of Technology is now collaborating with all County departments on an array of projects, and recently began the process of consolidating some service desk activities, data center management, and cybersecurity tasks performed by separately elected officials (e.g. State’s Attorney in December 2018, Recorder of Deeds in March 2019). The result of these changes is an increasingly efficient operation that is better prepared for the future.

The Bureau of Technology continues to focus on updating old job descriptions and creating new ones. Special attention is placed on descriptions related to information security, asset management, data analytics, vendor/contract management, ERP and GIS. The organization has also encouraged employee participation in continuing education and training programs, and programs to secure relevant certifications. A noteworthy accomplishment involved two Bureau of Technology employees who recently secured the Certified Information System Security Profession (CISSP) certification, and more than 20 who trained in VoIP-related technologies. As part of an effort to strengthen the team, generate ideas for improvement from a wider group, and groom future senior-level managers, The Bureau of Technology is placing greater emphasis on increasing the involvement of mid-level managers in on-going policy and planning discussions, regular senior-level employee meetings, interactions with other departments, and internal and external presentations.

Over 50% of the 180 budgeted positions are currently occupied by individuals hired externally by this administration (seven percent of the team was hired in the past year). This wave of new talent has brought: new and higher skill levels; fresh perspectives; creativity; an interest in experimentation; a commitment to project management; a greater understanding of options for application development and management; fresh ideas for infrastructure management, disaster recovery and business continuity; an interest in on-going professional development; a commitment to open data and analytics; etc., that are all aimed at providing a greater return on the IT investments made with limited public funds. The quality of services provided by The Bureau of Technology has improved tremendously as a result of the professionalization of its employee base.