Features

Sean Greer – City and County of Denver 

Reaching a Rocky Mountain high on IT service delivery 

So, Sean Greer is asked to assess his five rather whirlwind years as director of information technology. 

“It’s been one changing urgency and crisis from the next,” the affable Greer tells Toggle from his Mile High City office in April. “COVID, the vaccinations, the return to work, the homeless and migrant crisis. And here we are, right in the middle of every crisis.” 

Sean Greer | Director of IT Service Delivery | City and County of Denver 

Sean Greer | Director of IT Service Delivery | City and County of Denver

Which is precisely where he wants the IT service department to be. There was a time when Greer would have said the future of public service is digital. Well, at least in this fast-growing region of Colorado, the future is now, and he might be best positioned to help balance the very precarious formula of aiding those in most need—i.e., the growing number of migrants and homeless—while maintaining empathy for the taxpaying public. 

“It is a tough juggling act, supporting all these parties,” he says. “But we’ve been able to make the best of a bad situation and come out healthier. Our efforts have been transformative and changed how this city looks and thinks.”    

While Greer didn’t coin the phrase that there is opportunity in every crisis, he adheres to it. At least on the IT front, he says the post-pandemic Denver area has become much better prepared to respond to any and all emergencies. Still, given how fast the wired world evolves, his team must continue its innovative ways. 

Economized excellence 

Among the initiatives that arose from the modern need for the public sector to do more with less: the Automation Center for Excellence, which garnered the Apex Award from the Colorado Technology Association and the CIO 100 Award for IT innovation and leadership. 

Sean Greer | Director of IT Service Delivery | City and County of Denver 

As Greer explains, after assuming his position here after 13 years of IT roles at Denver International Airport, he recognized there weren’t enough personnel and dollars to serve the community under the old modus operandi. Value-added work was necessary, and it could be furthered through the automation of redundant tasks that had been consuming untold person-hours in practically every municipal department. 

“Let robots be transactional, and people be transformative” became the mission statement, and Greer expanded his search for ideas to the private sector. Amazon, for example, has got automation down pat while so many municipalities lag behind the curve, partially because they’re still dealing with people who haven’t yet gone wired. With input from so many parties, Denver has become a municipal leader for automation, and Greer is glad to share his ideas with his counterparts elsewhere.  

While the idea for the Center for Excellence arose pre-COVID, the pandemic intensified the need to have public services available 24/7, an all-remote environment for every department to connect. According to Greer, it wasn’t so much about technology itself. More to the point was a cultural overhaul that’s been vindicated in the relatively short time since the Center of Excellence has gone live—savings of $7.5 million and as many as 5,000 person-hours realized last year and statements from many formerly skeptical officials about how they’ve been able to function more efficiently.    

“When employees feel like the work they’re doing is more impactful and making a difference, they’re going to work harder,” Greer says. “Every governmental entity needs to find ways to get people out of the routine and into something more transformative.” 

Serving the needy 

Though the worst of the pandemic is hopefully over, other emergencies have intensified, among them the influx of migrants and homeless. The city having procured and retrofitted seven lodging establishments as well as other microcommunity sites to aid these most distressed people, Greer and his department have wired those places for online connections, telephones, 911 and video surveillance. 

Sean Greer | Director of IT Service Delivery | City and County of Denver 

They’ve been able to do so by expanding the functions of another pandemic project, the virtual emergency operations center initially rolled out to avoid cramming employees in close proximity. All emergency functions can now be virtually tracked, archived and used for training.  

Another project that is underway is the roll out of two artificial intelligence chatbots, one each for internal IT services and external constituent services. The takeaway, Greer explains, is that these systems are made possible by the foundation laid by the Center for Excellence. 

It’s all part of the increasing digitization of the public sector, something Greer’s been doing almost nonstop since earning his credentials in business administration and computer information systems from Colorado State University in 2003. He didn’t initially envision this career path—civil engineering was his first interest—but, as he explains, it became too cookie-cutter with its approach to one of its biggest needs, residential development. 

Wired for impact 

“I didn’t want to be doing that for 25 years,” Greer says. “I liked working with computers. More than anything, I thrived on asking ‘why’ and wondering why a process has to be done a certain way. Technology is a great enabler to address that and to be innovative.” 

Following three years as a technology engineer at GearHost, a web developer based in Colorado, Greer began his long service at Denver International Airport in 2006, starting as a senior IT developer and analyst and, after six promotions, ascending to director of innovation and program portfolio strategy. 

“An airport is an interesting place and environment,” he says. “It’s the closest to a private enterprise as you’ll find in the public sector. You answer private-sector companies and generate revenue. I had a lot of opportunity to grow there but didn’t think I’d have as much impact on the community as I do in this job.” 

He’s certainly impacted Greater Denver since making the jump in August 2019. It’s a broader position, Greer explains, and as a bonus, keeps him in the area he loves best. A second-generation Coloradan, Greer shares his home with his wife and two school-aged daughters, who are athletically inclined. Depending on the season, you’re likely to find all of them outdoors, skiing, hiking, playing soccer or whatever.  

Recreational time, however, can be at a premium, what with Greer’s services being so relied upon by one of the fastest growing U.S. locales. But it’s what he sys that motivates him to excel. While he didn’t set out to spend his professional life in the public sector, he says he’s found it rewarding, especially in the intangible sense. Then there’s the premium it puts on continuous learning. 

“You’ve got to accept as fact that you’ll never know it all,” Greer says. “There’ll never be a textbook written fast enough to keep up with the curve, but being able to impact an entire city through IT is very appealing and excites me.” 

Published on: June 18, 2024

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