Mark Kirk

Osage Nation
Director of Information Services Group

What can you tell us about your department and organization?
The Information Services Group has multiple departments within it, not just Information Technology. All together we are; IT, Communications, Archives, Mail Room, Reception and the Constituent Services departments. I report directly to the Chief’s Office and my role is to serve as the Director of the entire I.S. group which houses 30 people, 17 are in IT. This team handles all the network, communications, telecom, security, access control, A/V, applications, help-desk support, general IT and so on for areas within the tribe such as; enrollment, accounting, housing, TANF, judicial, head start, GIS and more. There are over 19,000 enrolled members of the Osage Nation who are able to utilize the government services we are responsible for providing IT support for.
What would you say is your leadership style?
I try to take a team-oriented approach to leadership. We have several teams defined within our group which primarily include; Help-Desk Team, Communications Team, Web Team, Infrastructure Team and Security Team. Some people cross into more than one team depending on their skill set and job title. We do not have any real “managers” of IT programs, we feel this is the best fit for our organization to keep projects on task and keep everyone engaged. It helps significantly with change management as well and promotes cross-training which is a positive thing not only for our department, but for servicing our customers and personal development for our team members. We have a very low turnover rate in most positions and I am confident that our ability to attack projects together vs working in silos contributes to that. When I first started here, there was a datacenter project that had just kicked off that was falling behind schedule. Once the new approach was implemented and we moved to a more team-oriented approach and started to implement ITIL and COBIT practices, the project started moving along and was a success. It was great to have an opportunity to put this structure in place right at the start. We now use this approach in not just the way we tackle projects but how we structure our department. Also, we have shared our model with some of the other departments in the tribe and they have adopted our team-oriented approach for their internal structure and project management.
What can you tell us about some of your current projects in IT?
Like any IT department there is never down-time, we always have tickets, upgrades and small projects going on, but two projects right now that are at the center of our work load are; the new building project and our SharePoint/CRM project.

The Osage Nation is spread across a coverage are of 2.304 sq miles (U.S. Census). Our main headquarters is in Pawhuska OK on 160 acres. Right now there are 105 facilities that span across the entire coverage area and this building project focuses on putting in two new buildings on the headquarters campus which will house a welcome center and a direct services center which would include departments like accounting and support staff. The master campus plan that is in place and set to be completed over next 3-5 years is to consolidate into as few buildings as we can. Our first two buildings of this multi-phase program are set to open this summer. It’s been a challenge but a very fun project to work on. It’s something that has been needed for a long time and IT has been involved with the development stages so we could ensure that the building was well-equipped with state of the art equipment and the ability for solid coverage. This building program also feeds into our move for improved business continuity. We have been fortunate not to have any major impact due to weather or other factors however we always want to prepare for the worst and hope for the best and have the ability to be fully operational especially with communications, in the event disaster strikes.

The second project that has been ongoing is our; Osage Nation Tribal Information System- (ONTIS). It’s a blend of Microsoft Dynamics and SharePoint to create a document management and CRM solution. Our goal is to have this be in use by all departments. We expect two more years before everything is fully rolled out but realistically it’s going to be something that is always evolving based on the needs of our organization, which is why it’s a great asset to have a flexible system. We are working with Planet Technologies as our partner on customizing the system and helping us to maximize its potential. So far it’s been rolled out to; enrollment, education, TANF, election and constituent services. The goal of the project is to centralize the data, help ensure accuracy of it and improve efficiency and service of every department. We will be focusing a lot of resources in 2015 on moving forward with the ONTIS project. With budgets remaining flat this year, something like this could mean big savings across multiple areas of the organization, which would be a huge plus to the benefits we are already seeing with this project.

What are some things you do you as an IT leader that help you make the best decisions possible?
I have a great team and have met a lot of great people in this industry that I trust. When I first started I went to a TribalNet conference and for me, the ability to be able to sit down face to face and see that other people are dealing with the same things I was, was immediately encouraging. Attending helped me get a better handle on situations I was involved with. I am also part of the Oklahoma Native American Technology Council (ONTAC) which has been a big help to have a collaborative environment to be a part of. I have people right in my back yard at other tribes that I can call up and ask questions, we talk about challenges and seek out solutions together. The willingness to give and take I have encountered in this industry has been great. You can’t afford not to connect with your peers.