Govlaunch Podcast

Clark County, NV puts a human-centered lens on digital transformation

Episode Summary

To serve its massive citizen base and local government workforce, Clark County’s IT department is blending technology solutions with good old fashioned in-person time.

Episode Notes

To serve its massive citizen base and local government workforce, Clark County’s IT department is blending technology solutions with good old fashioned in-person time. We'll catch up with Nadia Hansen to talk about the county’s hybrid approach to digital transformation — from telework for government workers to citizen services.

More info:

Featured government: Clark County, NV

Episode guest: Nadia Hansen, Chief Information Officer for Clark County

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Episode Transcription

Lindsay (00:05):

Welcome to the Govlaunch podcast. Govlaunch is the wiki for local government innovation and on this podcast, we're sharing the stories of local government innovators and their efforts to build smarter governments. I'm Lindsay Pica-Alfano, co-founder of Govlaunch and your host. 

In today's episode, I'm talking with Nadia Hansen from Clark County, Nevada about the digital transformation her county is undergoing. Clark County, where Nadia oversees the IT department is huge. It includes Las Vegas and is home to over 2 million people. 

When the local government recently made an emergency shift to working from home, they had to transition 10,000 workers to remote setup. But this wasn't a change of plans for the County. In fact, it accelerated a strategy they already had in place - an effort to create a hybrid system of in-person and digital options for government workers and citizens that allowed flexibility and efficiency while maintaining human connections. 

Let's hear more about Clark county's digital services and approach to workplace flexibility.

Lindsay (01:00):

Nadia, thanks so much for joining me today. Tell us a bit about your role. 


Hi Lindsay. I'm so excited to be here. Thank you for having me. I'm Nadia Hansen and I serve as the Chief Information Officer for Clark County, Nevada. For those of you who haven't been to Vegas before, hopefully most of you have, I am so fortunate to live and work in one of the most dynamic and resilient counties in the country. 

I am responsible for our technology department, which has about 200 employees and we oversee and provide services delivery for 38 county departments. We have 10,000 employees spread over 140 buildings with a technology landscape of over 150 mission critical software applications. 


Of course, many local governments have had to make this drastic change to remote work. And IT departments like yourself have had to deal with really the brunt of this change. A lot of the folks that we talk to are surprisingly looking at this as a more temporary situation, but you're talking more big picture and how your team can work moving forward beyond COVID. Tell us about this evolution in Clark County. 


It's a great question. Being a technology shop, we're always looking for ways to be innovative while supporting our business operations. Prior to COVID, we were piloting a limited telecommuting program for our IT staff. Since our daily operation spans across multiple facilities, it just makes sense for us to be mobile ready. So one of our biggest goals has been to equip our IT employees with the technology that's needed to be able to work from any county facility. That was basically our initial focus. So while the shift to work at home has for us has been a dramatic change for all county governments, we have been fortunate to be much better prepared than a lot of other county jurisdictions. We want this approach to be less of a knee jerk reaction and honestly more of a long term sustainable approach. Our future kind of what I see as a hybrid approach with staggered schedules and a blend of onsite and remote work. I truly feel that a hybrid blended approach is needed because you can't replace the human connection with zoom or WebEx or teams meetings everyday. I mean, the zoom fatigue that we hear about is real, right? So you can't replace that interaction with just having a workforce that's completely off site all the time.

Lindsay (03:53):

That’s a great point about the hybrid solution and the need to remain human-centered. This is a big topic in local government when meeting citizen needs as well and it's easy to overlook your own staff. How do you make sure your team is staying productive and you're still achieving your goals in each department with this hybrid workplace approach?

Nadia (04:15):

At the beginning of every year, this has been our process for years, we outline our strategic goals and objectives that are in line with the county's priorities. Because you know, technology is really there to be able to support what the county's priorities are, we're enablers. So we’re a very outcome-based department, which means we track staff productivity against those big goals and objectives. We have them broken up all the way from my level down to individual staff. So I start with my bigger vision. Here's what we're going to accomplish this year and then it goes down to the rest of the folks and that's how we track metrics. It's again, set goals. And I think that kinda makes it a little bit more mission driven. It makes it more, less about micromanagement and more about the bigger picture of how we're all as a team working towards it.


So how are you handling getting everybody on the same page with these goals? I know you don't just set a year plan and then never talk to your staff again. Are you meeting with them weekly, daily? What has your strategy been there?

Nadia (05:25):

Yeah, absolutely. So I'll talk about what we're currently doing. We have a daily standup with all the management staff, every day. That's the first thing we do where we just talk about what's going on. What have we accomplished? Where are we at today? Are there any risks and issues? Some very basic stand up 15, 20 minute catch up. And that has now been flowing through the organization. So I have it with my direct reports and then they have their direct reports. It's really that communication that honestly, we weren't really having a ton of before, or maybe you were having it once a week or was this a different frequency, but now with all that you realize there's a way better way for us to communicate now that we're all online, we all realize the need for collaboration, which can't be in isolation. So I think that's just kind of helped us really. We look at our strategy of how we communicate internally with our folks to make sure we're all on the same page.

Lindsay (06:26):

I hear what you're saying and it sounds a lot like the agile methodology that a lot of development teams use. So there's these daily stand ups where you're doing a regroup on goals and where everybody's at more and more people we've talked to have been really hugely important and something that emergency response teams are the ones to teach us, right? The fire chief will be the first one to tell you, this is how you handle an emergency situation, but hopefully even if we can get past this emergency situation, just better leadership and team building moving forward. What has your employee response been to this setup?

Nadia (07:03):

You know, it's funny I have received a mixed reaction. I tend to be a people person and when I see people, I just want to run like a puppy dog and say hi to everybody. And you know, I just love people and I love the interaction. I have some folks who are similar to me who crave human interaction. And so they need to see people in order to be energized and be productive. ThenI have some staff members who work best in a very focused environment with little to no distractions. So there's really no one answer that would make everybody happy. But as far as buy in is concerned, I feel that a blend of both onsite and remote work is that healthy balance, which kind of addresses different types of stakeholders within the organization.  I tell my staff all the time, we are not afraid to try new things and pivot if we have to in the future. So nothing is set in stone. You just can't be afraid to try and fail quickly and then realize it didn't work and now let's try something else. So I think that's kind of the mindset that we're building across the organization.

Lindsay (08:15):

That's great. I mean, I love the point you make about failing and failing fast. This is a relatively new concept in government so we talk about that a lot on Govlaunch. But I think something important that you highlight is this need to meet employees and really people where they're at. Some people are fine working from home and having limited touch points and want to do things more digitally. Other people are still going to want to come into a brick and mortar building and handle a problem. I know you in Clark County and a lot of local governments are being forced - I mean proactively before for some, but for a lot being forced - to move toward more digital services for citizens, which we think is fantastic. But we also all can acknowledge there's going to be that those folks that want to come into city hall and talk to somebody and have that in person experience. How are you navigating that, especially with your population of your county being so large?

Nadia (09:18):

You know, sadly this human crisis has been devastating, but at the same time, there's a silver lining to it. I think the way we are seeing it, this is a unique opportunity for us to be very innovative in some of the things that we're doing has to do with acceleration towards several traditional, like you mentioned, brick and mortar services with the help of our business and community partners and our departments to provide more of those services online in addition to walking services. We are launching hopefully in the next month, about exactly a month or so from today, our rebranded county website, which hasn't been updated in the last 12 years. And that's our main portal for digital services. So we've collaborated with our community to build a place where it's easy to follow it's intuitive. So residents are able to take care of their accounting needs from the comfort of their own home.

Some examples of those online services include applying for a business license, applying for a building permit, just looking up their license or permit status, paying for property taxes, scheduling recreation activities safely online, just as a few examples of the things that we're trying to do to, to be better, more proactive with our citizens. As a resident and a citizen myself, the expectation is the Amazon experience, right? So why should government be any different than Amazon, which I use on a daily basis? So really the expectations are so high. And luckily enough, we've partnered up with software companies like a Cartegraph, like Accela, like Granicus, SeeClickFix, there’s a number of human-centric vendors, which we're really focused more towards, which really helped us to be more proactive with our residents. So right now, in addition to the website, we're also busy implementing a 360 view to track service requests or resident complaints where our residents actually get visibility to track their requests then it allows them to engage with us in various channels, whether it's emails to social media, to text communications. So we're really trying some new approaches that haven't been done before.

Lindsay (11:47):

Do you have any metrics that you can share - I know I'm putting you on the spot a little here - around the efficiency pickup for these tools that you've deployed?

Nadia (11:57):

Our processes right now are heavily paper-based. So one of the things we're trying to do is be less paper based and how does that efficiency show up in terms of the number of days into hours. So as far as benchmarks are concerned, but in the process of benchmarking where we would like to be. 

I think right now our numbers are so paper driven, it's really hard to kind of see the end to end process just internally and how that efficiency is going to work. But definitely in a few months, that's something we should be able to share openly.

Lindsay (12:34):

Yeah. And don't worry, I'll follow up with you and we'll make sure to say it upstate the story with all these stats. I mean, it seems logical that we'd see a huge efficiency pickup, especially with so many millennial residents and the like that are really looking to do everything from their phone on the go. A lot of other governments we've talked to have seen things like you will ask somebody to pay for taxes, parking tickets, these types of things through an app, you're getting a lot more revenue coming in faster because it isn't that I have to mail a paper check to my local government. So changing gears a little, I'd like to ask a few more general quick questions if you have some time.

Nadia (13:18):

Sure, absolutely. Let's go for it.

Lindsay (13:20):

Great. So you're a very large county, larger than some states in the U.S. in fact. We at Govlaunch are acutely aware of the number of local governments that are serving communities of less than a hundred thousand people, which actually in the U S makes up about 96% of local governments. You would never know that reading any publication on local government innovation, because they're focused on the bigger cities. But this really carries on, you know, we've looked at governments in Australia and New Zealand, in the UK, and they're all hovering around 80 to 90% of their local governments are these very small, relative to your county, population sizes. What innovation advice would you share with others in local government that would resonate even with the smallest city or town?

Nadia (14:14):

Great question. I really feel that reimagining how we deliver government services, whether you're a small jurisdiction or a large one, it doesn't really matter. I think the opportunity here where we're at right now is to be able to adapt quickly and then differentiate yourself as a leader for positive change. At the end of the day, our accountability is to our residents and what can we provide to them to make their lives easier? So I think technology helps with that to some extent, but it really comes down to processes and making things available and accessible. I just feel like as technology leaders don't be afraid to take the first step and don't be afraid of making a dent, keeping the big outcome in mind.

Lindsay (15:12):

Well, and in light of recent events, being a technology leader, you have a real opportunity here because stakeholders that weren't looking at technology before are scrambling looking at technology, going to have to help solve this problem. So there's a real opportunity there that I think you've done an excellent job pointing out and hopefully more local governments, large and small will take advantage of this. What outside sources do you use for inspiration or education?

Nadia (15:37):

One of the places I definitely go to for inspiration has been Govlaunch. I love looking at all the things that are happening in government. I think SeeClickFix was one of the vendors that we're working with for the 360 view for our citizens. I found out about them on Govlaunch and I did some research around how other government entities are using it. And I think the best part, and not that I'm trying to talk too much about Govlaunch, but at the same time, it's just easy to use. I can just go and take a glimpse of what's going on without having to read a bunch of material. So I appreciate that you’ve started this site for us to be able to share technology experiences and share some of the local innovation that's going on around the country and outside. 

Lindsay (16:31):

Awesome. Well, that's the goal. Do you know of any other standout innovation in another local government we should checkout?


I honestly look up a lot to San Jose. I think San Jose is doing some fantastic things. Bigger jurisdictions like Maricopa County. I have partners in all our neighboring states. Utah is doing a lot of cool things, especially more on the DMV side of things and more online, smart community. We are moving towards that as well, but we just feel that there's some basic foundational services that we need to be able to digitize before we start looking at more like data analytics and some of the bigger things that were really trying to do. So definitely, I think some of the neighboring partners are doing a lot of cool things in government. 

Lindsay (17:19):

You had mentioned earlier the importance of failure and failing fast, and that, that needs to be something that's more accepted in government. What is something that you've tried that didn't work that other local governments maybe could learn from?

Nadia (17:31):

We have our internal development arm where we have programmers and we have a business analyst staff. At one point in time, and this was right when I was starting out with Clark County,  prior to my position, I was the deputy CIO. So one of the things we out was, everybody should go to a scrum master training, get trained, and let's be more agile. But here's the one thing we realized after trying it out after everybody got trained is that one size does not fit all. So not every project can be an agile project. It has to be some hybrid again, approach was waterfall and agile. And we kind of realized that with some of the projects where we actually experienced a lot of heartburn, this is probably not going to work that way because it has to do with how we communicate with stakeholders, how we work with our vendors and there has to be all sides that are kind of ready for that approach. So that was one of the things that we had tried and didn't work and we pivoted kind of now we're more of a, we're adapting to, again, a blended approach of how we approach projects based on what the scope is, what the complexity is and how we would want to address it with our stakeholders.


There's a lot of gray area in managing any project and it's difficult in that a lot of stakeholders want it to be more black and white. In practice, that isn't always the way it goes. So I sympathize with the difficulty that you all face. What is something that excites you about the future of Clark County? Obviously you're doing a lot of pretty exciting stuff now.

Nadia (19:10):

This is such a great time to be at Clark County and I tell folks that anybody can do a good job when times are good. It really comes down to when things are challenging and difficult. How do we provide the leadership, not just internally to our staff, but also just across makes life easy for everybody. So I feel like I'm in a very exciting time right now to be able to digitize a lot of our services, to provide that 360 view to our residents and to be able to really revisit some of the processes, which may have been lower on our priority list, where now it's become essential to revisit and look at. So I feel like there's just a lot of opportunity for more community engagement, for more partnerships with our vendors and, you know, provide some electronic government delivery where we can be more proactive rather than reactive.

Lindsay (20:09):

What I hope for the Govlaunch community and our subscribers, what I hope they take from this is really the silver lining. And you've done a great job, really bringing positivity to what can be viewed as a pretty negative situation. I know a lot of people in local government are hurting on the revenue front and there's hope for local government to move forward in a much more citizen-focused and resilient way. And we love what you guys are doing in Clark County. So keep up the great work and thanks again for chatting with us today.

Nadia (20:40):

Thank you so much for having me. I look forward to speaking with you soon again.

Lindsay (20:49):

Whether you're a large local government like Clark County or a smaller municipality, we hope you'll see the silver lining Nadia shared with us today. Stakeholders now understand the urgent need to leverage technology and provide a robust suite of digital services. We're also seeing leaders step up and teams working together to move forward faster than ever before. While Nadia has the luxury of a large team and a network of supporters to help drive initiatives, we can also see how smart deployment of technology and resources is achievable in governments of all sizes. 

We encourage leaders in local government to be more accepting of trying new things and the failures that may come with it as this is ultimately how local governments can move forward to create a better tomorrow for the communities they serve. I'm Lindsay Pica-Alfano and this podcast was produced by Govlaunch, the wiki for local government innovation. You can subscribe to hear more stories like this wherever you get your podcasts. 

If you're a local government innovator, we hope you'll help us on our mission to build the largest free resource for local governments globally. You can join to search and contribute to the wiki at Thanks for tuning in. We hope to see you next time on the Govlaunch podcast.