In the early-to-mid 80’s, data processing departments in cities and counties in the State of Wisconsin were striving if not struggling to provide services demanded of them. Technology was rapidly changing. Most cities and counties used IBM equipment and with the advent of the IBM System 3X equipment line, the transition from “batch” processing to end user departments entering information into “terminals” and controlling their own processing was beginning. Keypunching, verifying and the 80 and 96 column cards were about to be a thing of the past. The State of Wisconsin began developing statewide applications for work that had previously been done at the local level. The IBM PC and compatibles were entering the market place and that brought with it a whole new world of challenges.
All of these things and many more prompted a small group of Northeastern Wisconsin Data Processing Managers to get together as an informal group to discuss issues that were common to them. Common equipment, applications and problem areas were themes discussed over lunch. Putting a face to a name and voice and developing camaraderie were also important.
As time went on, the group had expanded to several more cities and counties. In the 1985-86 timeframe, the idea was floated to expand the group on a statewide basis. Letters were sent to cities and counties with known DP departments and to clerks or administrators inviting DP Managers or a representative to a kickoff meeting. Stevens Point was selected as a meeting place because of its central location in the State. Initial meetings were very successful and well attended but very informal. Usually it was a one day affair and at the end of the day, people would return home. The original founders of GIPAW and the entities they worked for were:
- Chip Mauel – City of De Pere
- Steve Thomas – Brown County
- Dave Kleaver – Marathon County, City of Wausau & Wausau School District
- Mark Beveridge – City and County of Fond du Lac
- Jim Kriefski – Outagamie County
As time passed, agendas became formalized and meetings became a two day event. Representatives of State of Wisconsin departments were invited to meetings to discuss their directives and how they may impact local programs. A salary, equipment and application survey was developed and tabulated for use by members. Eventually, it was decided to have a vendor show at the annual meeting. Besides exposing members to new technologies and applications, vendors paid a fee to present their products.
One of the major accomplishments of GIPAW has been to support its members in accomplishing their objectives. This might include advancing technology and application strategies and in many cases speeding up the process of implementation due to collaboration and mutual support.
Moving into the 90’s, DP Managers become IS or IT Directors. The PC became the workstation of the future. Servers replaced or augmented mini-mainframes. The Internet and e-mail changed how business was conducted. Firewalls, fiber optics, switches and routers became the new IT buzzwords. Programmers developed web pages in addition to applications. GIPAW addressed many these areas at conferences and meetings. More importantly, entities became aware of what their counterparts were doing to address issues and take advantage of “how are you doing that”.
Today, GIPAW members face new challenges that are equally as important as those faced 20+ years ago. The speed at which things change in our 24x7 world and keeping up with that change is one of the ongoing challenges for those working in IT. Networks have grown more complex with each passing year and computers are no longer just something nice to have. It is essential to most jobs to have reliable access to the computer systems people use. More applications are becoming web based which means fast access to the internet is vital. Social media, cloud apps, web hosting, VOIP phone systems, virtualization, BYOD, video storage and security are just some of the topics we deal with on a daily basis. Technology is used more and more in everyone’s daily life and that isn’t going to change.
Working in government IT can be very challenging. GIPAW continues to be an organization where the sharing of ideas is done regularly whether through the very active ListServ or the face to face meetings. GIPAW helps its entire membership feel connected to those across Wisconsin that deal with the same daily issues.