IT Team

Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi

Can you give us a look at the areas of the tribe your IT team of six provides support to?
We have seven locations on-site to which we provide service, some with multiple divisions within. Our primary site is at the newly-built Pine Creek Government Center. This building houses various departments for membership services, tribal administration, finance, human resources, culture, education, information technology. We also support the Gaming Commission, however completely separate from the actual gaming operations IT support. We have also opened a facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is about 90 minutes from the Pine Creek location. We have opened a new facility there to provide a site for outlying members to visit for various membership services provided by the tribe. The Grand Rapids site also has a health clinic for membership as well. We also support Skasgè Power which specializes in Solar Power and is located in Athens, MI.
Your department has grown over the last couple of years, what are some of the key projects you have been working on with your team?
The IT Department has grown tremendously. A couple of years ago, there was one part time contracted IT Director and one IT Staff member. Since this time, we have grown to a total of six staff members, including two NHBP Tribal Members, Douglas Taylor, IT Manager who is also a Veteran and Greg DeGraff, our Systems Administrator. It was important to not only evaluate the positions that we needed but to also develop a roadmap outlining where we wanted to go from the infrastructure perspective. Two years ago, our infrastructure consisted of mainly a workgroup environment so we had the ability to build the infrastructure from the ground up. We focused on designing the infrastructure while keeping future growth in mind, which brought us into the Widoktadwen Project which consisted of the newly-built Government Center, Department of Public Works and some expansion with the Health Departments. In order for us to move forward, we also designed a backbone fiber optic network throughout the campus, which provides additional layers of redundancy and also allows for growth into the future. IT Manager Douglas Taylor has also been in the IT Industry for several years and commented on our progress and the continued support of our Tribal Council. “It has been a real honor to take a very basic workgroup network to a state-of-the-art network with a fiber optic backbone that is equal or better than most federal government computer networks. A good sound network upgrade plan was presented to the Tribal Council and approved. The Tribal Council understood the value and future requirements of Information Technology that the Tribal government would need to move to the next level of tribal government operations with a state-of-the-art network.”

Also included within the Widoktadwen Projects were various technologies that were installed within the Government Center, and Department of Public Works facility as well as both health clinics such as storage area network, server virtualization, access control, video conferencing, digital signage and much more. As we continue to move forward, we have also been focusing on developing policies, procedures and building a solid framework to work from to provide a solid foundation for years to come.

What’s coming up this year for your department?
We continue to evaluate software programs within each department to increase productivity. This may include a new software purchases, upgrading existing software or working with departments on redesigning the daily workflow with the applications to streamline productivity. In 2014, we are working on several projects with the Health department to streamline the process within the IHS applications. As we continue to move forward, we are also looking to implement some paperless solutions.

The Technology Department is also looking to host a few Lunch and Learn sessions with our Membership on technology items such as safe browsing on the internet and protecting against identity theft, among a few others. We are also looking into holding some workshops with our youth to encourage Tribal Members to consider a career in Information Technology.

In what ways would you say you’ve had to balance “leadership” vs “technical” in your role as CIO?
It is very important to focus on the direction of the Tribal Government for years to come but to also understand the technology changes and what will benefit the end user(s) and organization going forward. I’ve found it increasingly important and helpful to network with other Tribal IT directors with similarly structured organizations and continue to do research pertinent to the job. I always try to think outside of the box and always plan for the future growth, needs and expectations of the department. I also make it a point to work closely with other departments ensuring that we are providing good customer service to our end users and in doing so, have developed a great rapport with department heads. I’m fortunate to have a great IT staff and we all work really well together. I value and listen to their input regarding issues going on in the field and there are a lot of times we have to reevaluate a program or process to better suits the needs of a specific department. A comment from, Larysa Hill in our finance division shows our commitment to maintaining those positive relationships. “The finance department relies completely on a properly functioning computer system. Our IT department provides outstanding technical support in a timely manner. When we have any problems, we receive an immediate response.”

How important has the support from your tribal council been for your team’s progression?

It’s been extremely important. We wouldn’t be where we are today without our dedicated staff and ongoing support of our tribal council. In fact I’d like to share another quote, this one a collaborative comment from our Tribal Council, “Leaders strive to provide members with quality care. The IT staff stands for the common good of bridging relationships and its succession. The passion and dedication of this team is another step of the revitalization for the Pine Creek Indian Reservation.” Each year the tribe publishes an annual report and year in review- you can really see the support and cohesiveness we have as an organization. IT is proud to be a big part of that, helping us all grow and move forward.

Your team was one of the recipients recognized for achievements this year at TribalNet, as recommended by your tribal council. What did this recommendation and recognition mean to you and your team?

We were honored to be the recipient of such a prestigious award. I’m fortunate to have the greatest IT Team that goes above and beyond each and every day. Their hard work, passion, dedication, technical expertise and personable approach has been the gateway to our success. We also would like to thank our Tribal Council for all of their continued support along with TribalNet for bringing Technology and Tribes together. This was our first time attending the conference and we will definitely be back this year. We attended some very valuable presentations and the networking with other Tribes was beneficial as well. We are looking forward to this year’s event.