Susan Buzzard is executive director of Technology at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. An innovative and visionary leader, Buzzard explains how Cisco Success Tracks and CX Cloud, the digital platform for Success Tracks, support the initiative to strengthen the infrastructure that supports the tribe’s most critical services.
The Choctaw Nation is the third largest Native American nation in the United States, with over 200,000 tribal members and more than 11,000 employees. The Choctaw Nation’s history is vibrant, and the organization has a vision of “Living out the Chahta Spirit of faith, family, and culture.” This vision resonates throughout everything that we do.
I retired from corporate IT after 30 years, having gained broad expertise in many areas throughout the industry. However, as quickly as retirement set in, I was given the opportunity to join the IT team at Choctaw Nation. I was inspired to join this team that is creating opportunities for growth, prosperity, and education for our members.
I am fortunate to have a very talented team who is passionate about giving back to the Choctaw Nation tribal members and taking care of the community.
The team pulls together in a collaborative way to accomplish all the projects that we have on our plate, and to make sure that the local economy as well as the tribal members continue to thrive and grow and achieve whatever they need to achieve in their daily lives.
Ultimately, our team is focused on achieving the five strategic goals of the Choctaw Nation. These goals include strengthening the financial growth and economic stability of tribal members, improving the quality of life for tribal members, being the employer of choice, protecting and promoting Choctaw culture, and exercising sovereignty.
Sovereignty is vital to Choctaw Nation, and developing our IT infrastructure through digital transformation plays a role in that. A fast, secure, and reliable network is critical, not only for our day-to-day business, but for infrastructure, jobs, and stability.
The Choctaw Nation covers 11 counties in Southeast Oklahoma. We have a responsibility to our members and the people on our lands to provide community services, social services, government, schools, medical clinics, and more.
We also support judicial systems, the Jones Academy boarding school, and commerce, including gaming, travel plaza, country market, and agriculture. These services all rely on a reliable network, and expanding and modernizing this network has been key to our success.
Additionally, we support revenue-driving businesses such as our casinos. A network outage could cause a loss of revenue that funds government services and could impact those government services as well. Our network is critical to everything we do.
To maintain a reliable network infrastructure, we prioritized security and visibility. We needed insights into our devices and support cases, which would allow us to handle network planning and budgeting more strategically.
The size of our organization and variety of services we provide make gaining visibility and insights complex. Simply getting a current view of our inventory and keeping up to date with hardware updates was very challenging, manual, and time-consuming. Just as we were tackling this challenge, we learned about Cisco CX Cloud.
Our network operations team took a strategic and step-by-step approach to address all security advisories and keep network devices in compliance with the latest recommended software versions.
CX Cloud was essential for giving us real-time visibility into security advisories, updates, and critical bugs. It provides a full picture of all the assets in our environment in a single pane of glass, allowing us to manage everything from one dashboard.
This visibility has been a key to maintaining our essential services. For example, in critical infrastructures such as our hospital, we want to limit the impact of software updates to the daily processes.
CX Cloud has allowed us to keep our costs down and be more efficient in how we serve the nation. My team has visibility into all our open TAC cases, so we don’t duplicate efforts and we can easily manage when team members are not in the office.
I also find the lifecycle adoption piece extremely useful, which helps educate the team so they can be successful in managing the tools and keeping our infrastructure up to date.
Automation was also critical to our success in creating a secure, reliable network. And Cisco DNA Center was the backbone of that, enabling us to update hundreds and hundreds of network devices in more than 200 different buildings across the Choctaw Nation. This was previously almost impossible to maintain and keep up to date manually.
Now, with CX Cloud, not only is our network more secure and efficient, but it is helping our team work more effectively. We’ve accelerated our IOS and security patches plan, reducing the process to complete by approximately 30 days. Now, our devices are updated faster and stay secure with all the latest features.
The improved security has reduced the number of security service calls by the Cisco Product Security Incident Response Team (P-SIRT) by 56 percent over 60 days. The team used to spend about two weeks per quarter investigating security vulnerabilities, and now that time is down to about three hours.
“Cisco is a big part of this success. They listened to our needs and provided the expertise and solutions for our team to take the leap.”—Susan Buzzard, executive director of Technology at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
With a stable network, we provide the services our community needs. For example, during the pandemic, when schools and centers were closed, we provided Wi-Fi services to students in the parking lot of our community center.
As a result, students that did not have access to Wi-Fi at home were able to keep up with remote classes from the safety of their parents’ cars.
We also created programs to ensure food security for our elderly or disabled tribe members and to assist people who were experiencing economic issues during the pandemic, enabling them to apply online and specify their needs.
We currently have hundreds of projects at Choctaw Nation, some of which are new, and others focused on continuous improvement of existing programs. We are always asking ourselves: How can we do things better? How can we improve what we have here at Choctaw Nation to continually help our tribal members and our local economies thrive?
The Cisco team has been a big part of our success so far, by listening to our needs and providing the expertise and solutions for us to be successful. Our goal is to continue to adapt and innovate with Cisco to provide the services our community requires, as their needs evolve.
We are evaluating several new initiatives to continue this innovation. Currently, we are looking into upgrading our healthcare IT infrastructure. As we begin this project, we are trusting CX Cloud to help track different components of the infrastructure as we build out the workflows, processes, document systems, and integration points.
I take pride in knowing that we are bettering the lives of our members through IT, by providing greater access to information, education, jobs, and more. We are working to create a better future, rooted in history and tribal values, keeping in the spirit of the Choctaw Nation.