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Colorado to revamp state IT operations (Update on the status of California)

Gov. Bill Ritter (D) announced his plans to overhaul Colorado's IT operations. GovWin has already blogged on similar efforts in New Jersey, Arkansas, Florida, and Wisconsin. All of these states have relatively new governors who are putting their stamps on various state operations. These cases also reinforce the existing trend toward what might be called "rationalization" of state IT processes. The very first step in rationalizing a government process (such as IT procurement) is to capture new efficiencies through centralization, which eliminates duplicative--and, sometimes, conflicting--processes and creates a greater economy of scale and lower procurement costs with higher volume purchasing.

Driven by a desire to avoid the sorts of costly IT boondoggles that plagued the previous administration, Gov. Ritter's plan includes the following components:

  • An executive order elevating the state CIO's position to the cabinet level (May 2007), now filled by Michael Locatis
  • An Innovation Council to advice the governor on IT operations and technology-oriented economic development
  • Introduction of an "IT Consolidation Bill" in the 2008 legislative session

Just over the Rocky Mountains, California's Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) issued an assessment of the state's Office of the CIO. The LAO pushed back against some of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposed changes to the state's IT operations, finding "that (1) the planning and policy development roles are appropriately placed with the Chief Information Officer (CIO), (2) moving IT project oversight to CIO would eliminate objectivity, and (3) a separate security office may create an unnecessary layer of review."

The LAO recommends an IT-oversight structure as follows:

Continued CIO oversight of strategic planning, policies, and standards Project review, approval, and oversight remain with the state's Department of Finance Information security oversight be moved to the state CIO's office rather than the state Department of Consumer Affairs However, Gov. Schwarzenegger's changes were enacted earlier this year as part of Senate Bill 90. The state's CIO, Clark Kelso, has created a brief presentation that summarizes those changes and what they mean going forward. But, the LAO brief provides an interesting insight into the internal debates around these sorts of institutional changes.

GovWin's Take

  • Do not expect a national consensus to emerge over how states can best establish and enforce IT standards. Each approach will have to be tailored to the particulars of the state's political and operational environment at that time. And the approach will evolve over time--sometimes taking steps forward and sometimes back.
  • Rationalization doesn't always mean that the number of opportunities coming out of a given state will decrease. While you might see fewer duplicative procurements of certain solutions, vendors should expect the greater economy of scale to lead bigger buys, reinvestment of savings in upgrades/lifecycle refreshes, and purchasing in new areas where fragmented budgets discouraged most agencies from thinking big in terms of technology-enabled innovation.
  • Colorado's inclusion of technology-oriented economic development into the mission of the Innovation Council certainly adds a bit of glamour to the CIO's role. However, it will be interesting to see how these dual roles are balanced. Colorado has tested this approach for years and, historically, the allure of economic development has distracted the state CIO from the operational side of things. Virginia has the only successful model of this sort, but it has a cabinet-level Secretary of Technology, Aneesh Chopra, who sits over the state's CIO, Lem Stewart.

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