CLPHA's CIO Convening

Summary by Gary Leaf, Chief Information Officer (CIO), King County Housing Authority

IT leaders from 30 CLPHA member PHAs met last week for the inaugural event focused on information technology topics as a part of the CLPHA fall membership meeting agenda.  Most of the largest member agencies were represented and attendees voted unanimously to request the CLPHA leadership to include an IT track as a part of next fall’s general meeting.

Bob Marano from New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) kicked off the proceedings with an overview of his IT shop, focusing on the web and mobile applications they have created for staff, owners, and residents. Of particular note is the NYCHA Self-Service Portal where an estimated 90% of public housing residents completed their re-certifications in 2017.  Additionally, their Section 8 Owner Extranet boasts 35,000 owners signed up for online services.  MyNYCHA--“NYCHA in the Palm of Your Hand”--allows residents to create work tickets, view appointments, pay rent, and receive alerts. NYCHA has also installed 150 kiosks at NYCHA management offices offering an array of self-service options including document scanning, resident communications, rent payments, and a direct phone line to customer support.

Steve McDowell of Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) facilitated a panel discussion on a range of security topics. Panelists were Luis Yataco of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) and Jay Leslie from Cambridge Housing Authority.  Jay opened the session with a brief set of slides with particular focus on staff education around phishing schemes, strong password standards, and multi-factor authentication.  This fostered a discussion about consequences for offenders.

Jo Ana Alvarado from San Antonio Housing Authority shared her organization’s journey to replace most Microsoft Office products with the Google Suite. This project is in its sixth year but did not hit its stride until mid-2014. Since then, most products traditionally offered in the Microsoft stack have been replaced with Google offerings. The main exceptions are pesky Excel spreadsheets and some Access databases. Cost savings motivated this ambitious undertaking. Early indications are that Google offers an improved bottom line, but still requires some startup education for new hires or talent acquisition of Google-fluent new hires.

Gary Leaf from King County Housing Authority (KCHA) presented KCHA’s ongoing digital document initiative. With all resident files now electronic, focus has shifted to workflows that leverage a tight integration with Microsoft Outlook.  Several major workflows have been implemented including tax credit compliance, most HR interactions, and eProcurement, which is live in one department with six variants planned through 2019. The latter manages the approval process for bid packages inside KCHA and supports digital signatures for suppliers outside of the agency.  Gary shared best practices, suggested approaches, and lessons learned for those considering this big undertaking.

Luis Yataco from HACLA facilitated a panel on business intelligence (BI) and data warehouses. Panelists were Steve McDowell from SHA and Kenneth Wood from Charlotte Housing Authority. Kenneth shared a slide deck highlighting the set of applications his team has developed to provide key performance metrics across a wide range of operational areas including vacancy Reporting, rents, accounts receivable, work orders, HCV recertifications and staff workload, inspections, summary and schedule, VMS summary, and a series of property-specific KPIs. Steve outlined SHA’s data warehouse development and shared the toolset they use to mine information for reporting.

Michael Snyder of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency offered a peek at his agency’s soon-to-be released resident portal. Inside the portal a resident can securely update their profile, report changes such as family composition, request a move, review documents they have submitted, submit their annual re-certification, message their case worker, and initiate a variety of forms. The resident is guided through the process and all submissions pause for human review before systems are updated.  An interesting feature is that before and after “forms” are presented to the reviewer to aid in verifying intended system updates.

Finally, our guest speaker, Matthew Drake, spoke on the state of cyber-readiness and the array of bad actors and their methods.  Matt works in the FBI’s Washington, D.C. Field Office and is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge over the Cyber Program and serves on the Cyber Task Force. He holds two master’s degrees in computer information systems and criminal justice and has spent 22 years with the FBI. The session was very interactive, produced an avalanche of questions, and resulted in Matt basically disregarding his slides and freewheeling with the group.  If participation is any indicator, Matt’s part of the program was definitely a hit. Following his presentation, we concluded that going back to stone tablets may be in order.