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Enough with the paper bids: Electronic procurement is the new green

States nationwide are reforming procurement methods and tools in an effort to provide more transparency around current initiatives, boost vendor participation, and increase cost savings.
 
Earlier this year, the Delaware Senate voted 20-0 in support of a state-run website to advertise all solicitations valued at more than $50,000, and Governor Jack Markell recently signed Senate Bill 212 into law, which requires the state to implement an online procurement portal by January 1, 2013. The site will be available to vendors and the general public. Currently, the state has a basic purchasing website with projects listed in a directory by date. With the new site, state counties and municipalities will also have the opportunity to publicize bids. The portal will ultimately save the state millions of dollars by eliminating the requirement to post often-overlooked ads in newspapers.
 
Meanwhile, in Michigan, nine proposals are currently under evaluation for the state’s new e-procurement system. Michigan’s current bid site only allows for solicitation advertisements and online bidding. The goal of the new system is to link bid postings with the state’s internal purchasing system and electronic accounting system, the Michigan Administrative Information Network (MAIN), in a one-stop shop. MAIN is also planned to be replaced within the next five years at an estimated cost between $80 million and $150 million. The new system will also allow vendors to submit proposals electronically and improve communication with procurement officials. State localities and school districts will also have the option to utilize the new portal to post solicitations.
 
New Mexico is also on its way to procurement reform by ridding of paper procurement practices and employing an electronic bid portal. The state recently awarded SciQuest, Inc., a five-year contract to provide software, licensing and implementation services or an e-procurement package valued at $378,000 and estimated to save the state nearly $2 million within three years.
 
Last year, the Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA) selected SciQuest to build its Cooperative Market Center of the States – an online marketplace for its multistate purchasing consortorium, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
 
With procurement reform on the rise and e-procurement solutions advancing to support and integrate diverse systems across the nation, Deltek is currently tracking several state and local electronic procurement projects, of which statewide initiatives include:
 
  • Florida is in the final days of receiving bids for its e-procurement overhaul. The state released a solicitation in May seeking a vendor to manage the state’s online portal for buyers and vendors, MyFloridaMarketPlaceProposals for the four-year contract are due by July 16, and Deltek will report on award details accordingly. (Opportunity 56250)
  • Arizona is currently in its final year of a contract with NIC to provide portal operations for the state’s website. NIC was awarded a $5.7 million contract in 2007 for a base term of three years. With renewal options utilized, the contract now expires in June 2013. A procurement official with the state informed Deltek that a rebid solicitation is already in the work, with an anticipated request for proposals (RFP) release this fall. (Opportunity 42958)
  • Massachusetts awarded Gartner a consulting contract to provide a roadmap for implementing a new e-procurement solution to replace the state’s legacy site. Once the consulting engagement concludes, the state plans to release a solicitation for software in fall 2012. An award is slated for late this year, and implementation is expected in spring 2013. (Opportunity 75923) 
  • SciComm, Inc., currently provides the state of Idaho with a Web-based electronic purchasing system. The initial contract was awarded in 2007 at a base five-year term, and a renewal option has been utilized to extend the contract through December 2013. Deltek is currently tracking the contract for future renewal or rebid activity. (Opportunity 66281)
  • The Illinois Ethics Commission (EEC) awarded WisdomTech Consulting Inc. a contract earlier this year to conduct a vendor portal study to determine next steps in implementing a new procurement platform where vendors can go to pre-qualify their business. The $50,000 consulting contract concluded last month, and Deltek is attempting to obtain the results of the study to determine the commission's next steps. Deltek anticipates a follow-up solicitation will be released for the actual vendor portal later this year. (Opportunity 83471)
In addition to the above state initiatives, Deltek is tracking an array of e-procurement projects at the local and university level. Expect more analysis on procurement reform in the months to come.
 
For a complete analyst perspective on e-procurement, go here.
 
Follow me on Twitter @GovWinKRidley.

Hawaii, living up to New Day Plan

Governor Neil Abercrombie identified three major priorities for the 2012 legislative session under the New Day Plan, with an ultimate goal to change Hawaii’s path by moving away from economic and social policies of the status quo. The governor’s three main priorities are:
1.     Immediate job growth to a sustainable foundation – Creating jobs for people so they are able to do more than just make ends meet. This is also expected to improve the business climate for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
2.     Invest in education, skills, and the well-being of Hawaii’s people – Building private-public partnerships in early childhood, health care technology, housing, preventative social sciences, and other previously indentified long-term priorities.
3.     Transform state government into an efficient and effective enterprise – Rehabilitating the state’s fiscal health, carefully managing cash flow, and professionalizing human resources management to bring out the best of Hawaii’s outstanding public workforce.
Governor Abercrombie achieved many high points during his first year in office under the New Day Plan. The state was initially up against a $1.2 billion deficit between December 2010 and June 2013; however, by the end of June 2011, the state entered the new fiscal year with positive general funding for the first time in three years. Abercrombie’s administration tackled the deficit by reducing the impact on public services. Figure 1, below, shows the state’s all-funds budget’s steady increase year after year.
Technology and innovation are a large component of Hawaii’s New Day Plan. For that, vendors should pay attention to each and every agency within the state. The interest in expanding technology shows the state’s confidence in using technology to increase efficiencies across agencies statewide. Much of the state’s FY 2011-2013 budget is devoted to this area, which suggests statewide opportunity for IT-related contracts.
For a complete analysis on Hawaii’s New Day Plan and upcoming technology initiatives, go here!

 

Recapping the Florida Educational Technology Conference: social media tools vs. educational Web 2.0

Tom DiScipio, founder of the educational social media tool, ePals, gave an in-depth presentation on the ups and downs of social networking tools vs. Web 2.0 education platforms at the 32 Annual Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) held in late January. He launched the session with hard-hitting statistics on privacy laws, or the lack thereof. According to a recent study of Columbia University students, 94 percent of those surveyed said they were sharing personal information on Facebook that they did not intend to make public. DiScipio also noted that 20 million minors are currently on Facebook, with 7.5 million users under age 13, and five million under 10 years old. He said the top reasons most teachers utilize popular social networking tools such as Facebook or Twitter in the classroom is because they are most familiar with them and are not aware of other options.
 
Safety and privacy issues with social media tools are a major concern in the education arena. DiScipio offered a hefty rundown of cons with mass market social media, including:
  • Safety and policy management
  • Role-based permissions at customized and administrator levels
  • Not always “on task”
  • Students under age 13 (age of consent)
  • Archiving/storage
  • Privacy – personal info tracking/advertising
  • School/district employment
  • Not curricular in functionality
  • Requires more time for collaborative tasks
  • Requires outside third party applications be used to complete tasks
  • Does not integrate other K-12 third party apps  
Not totally aimed at tooting ePals’ horn, DiScipio noted several Web 2.0 educational organizations that successfully provide K-12 social networking, including Schoology, Edmodo, eChalk, and Gaggle. Of course, ePals was the main focus. It is currently “the Internet’s largest and fastest-growing K-12 social learning network,” reaching more than 25 million teachers and students around the globe.
 
Epals’ many solutions bundle into a solid model for other vendors to reference and build on when customizing and marketing their product. DiScipio stressed the importance of global interaction. With ePals’ Global Community feature, students and teachers can communicate and work on projects with other classes worldwide. Further key ePals features include secure email with language translation capability, virtual workspaces with digital storage, and curriculum-based services to improve reading, writing and critical thinking skills through a matching of students with mentors and applicable learning material.
 
DiScipio said that when employing a school-based social media platform, districts reported students are less prone to inappropriate behavior. Epals is designed for safety, with strict policy management, assigned roles and permissions, and teacher supervision.
 
Only the tip of the social-media iceberg has been touched in this day of virtual communication and Web 2.0’s reign. Social networking platforms geared toward specific industries such as education (ePals), working professionals (LinkedIn, Yammer), or government (GovLoop) will continue to expand across international markets. Solutions that offer a bevy of networking capability, strong security and multiple resources in one package are most likely to appeal to organizations seeking the most effective product to help their users thrive.
 
For a complete recap of FETC including sessions on virtualization, green computing, high-density Wi-Fi challenges, and tablet technology in the classroom, please go here. Also, follow me on Twitter @GovWinKRidley for the latest state and local buzz.

Deltek launches new blog series exploring the evolution of insurance exchanges

As promised, Deltek’s health care and social services team is kicking off a blog series centered on our recently released report, “Evolving Health Insurance Exchanges.” The report provides an in-depth analysis of states and their steps toward implementing these one-stop shops. It also provides high-level recommendations for vendors trying to get ahead in the game.
 
Blogs this week will touch on topics such as all-payer claims data (APCD) and its role in the insurance exchange initiative, integrated eligibility, upcoming quality assurance initiatives, states’ progress in implementation/procurement, and more! Today’s blog explores a few major milestones reached by two states out West.
 
Last week, California released the long-awaited request for proposals (RFP) for the California Healthcare Eligibility, Enrollment and Retention System (CalHEERS). The RFP’s release comes as no surprise, as California has been a consistent leader in the insurance exchange effort and was the first state to establish legislation for the system. So far, California has received more than $40 million in federal funding.
 
The CalHEERS procurement is a joint effort by the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board (MRMIB). The selected vendor will be responsible for the design, development and deployment of software functionality to meet requirements established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The goal of CalHEERS is to deliver a solution that is fully integrated and utilizes the highly desirable “no wrong door” service system, which provides consistent consumer experiences at all entry points. The contract will be for a total of five years and will hold three, one-year extensions. Proposals are due by Feb. 24.
 
Idaho, another state refusing to take a back seat in the insurance exchange effort, released a request for information (RFI) last Wednesday to gather feedback on available solutions for its future exchange. A political panel discussion took place last week to address the pros and cons of setting up a state exchange, and conclusions were that the overall cost of insurance is a huge problem, and spikes in health insurance on a national level will put the state in trouble.
 
According to the Idaho Department of Insurance (DOI), the insurance exchange will need to perform a variety of functions, including offering residents of each state the means to compare information on available health benefit plans, the ability to enroll in plans, and access to subsidies based on eligibility. Idaho’s exchange may also need to coordinate with the Medicaid Division in terms of eligibility and enrollment into Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Idaho’s DOI will lead efforts pertaining to the exchange and work with the Department of Health and Welfare and its Division of Medicaid. RFI Responses are due by Feb. 16.
 
Vendors can expect more insurance exchange-related opportunities to be released in the coming months as states become more responsive to the looming 2014 deadline. Despite the upcoming ruling on the health reform law this spring, states are realizing there is no time to wait. As a result, more and more states are at least putting themselves in a position that will allow them to be prepared for whatever decisions come out of the ruling. Want to learn even more about the initiative? Download a copy of Deltek’s “Evolving Health Insurance Exchanges,” here.
 
Don't forget to follow Deltek's Health Care and Social Services Team on Twitter @GovWin_HHS or connect with us through LinkedIn. We'll be tweeting and posting throughout the week with our expert analysis of health IT in the state and local market.

 

 

Obama American Jobs Act: Contractor Implications

On Thursday night, President Barack Obama revealed the American Jobs Act, an ambitious $447 billion package of spending plans and tax cuts designed to stimulate the U.S. economy and create badly needed jobs. And according to Obama, the plan will be paid for in full by rolling it into the list of spending to be offset by the Joint Committee focused on a deficit reduction plan.

Overall, Obama pushed for more federal spending to help jump-start the economy, although he avoided the word "stimulus," which has become an issue with Republicans. Clearly, the GOP will continue to oppose anything resembling the last stimulus, and is quite weary of the threat of continued out-of-control spending.

Below are some key points from Obama's speech which could affect the government contracting community:

  • Helping Small Businesses – As part of his infrastructure revitalization plan, Obama called for significant investments in schools, roads, rail and airports while helping small business contractors compete for infrastructure projects. He also called for tax cuts, reforms and regulatory reductions to help entrepreneurs and small businesses access capital and grow, which could benefit smaller contractors just getting started and those looking to expand their operations.

    Contractor Impact: Obama's plan includes changing the way the government does business with smaller firms. The Administration will soon announce a plan to accelerate government payments to small contractors to help put money in their hands faster. The President is also charging his CIO and CTO to, within 90 days; stand up a one-stop, online portal for small businesses to easily access government services.

  • Transportation Infrastructure - Transportation infrastructure presents a double opportunity for Obama - a chance to get Americans working, while modernizing the U.S.'s deteriorating infrastructure. In total, Obama called for $50 billion to be spent on immediate investments for highways, transit, rail and aviation. The President's plan includes investments to improve America's airports, support NextGen Air Traffic Modernization efforts, and resources for the TIGER and TIFIA programs, which target competitive dollars to innovative multi-modal infrastructure programs. Another $10 billion will be spent on an infrastructure bank to help get private funding to support infrastructure-related projects.

    Contractor Impact: Infrastructure work would benefit AEC contractors over the next several years. According to Deltek's "Federal Architecture and Engineering Market Outlook, 2011-2016" report, demand for architecture and engineering (A/E) services by the U.S. government will increase from $8.1 billion in 2011 to $9.5 billion in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.2%. As transportation infrastructure modernization progresses, so does the embedded technology, which could mean additional opportunity for technology contractors.

  • School Infrastructure - Obama also wants to create jobs to work on construction projects at thousands of deteriorating schools, with rural and Bureau of Indian Education funded schools having top priority. Obama aims to invest $25 billion in school infrastructure, including Internet-ready classrooms. He also emphasized the need to rehire teachers who have been laid off, and will look to spend $35 billion to help protect those teachers.

    Contractor Impact: Infrastructure work would benefit AEC contractors and firms that could provide IT enhancements and upgrades. Projects would include energy efficiency upgrades, modernization of science and computer labs and technology upgrades.

  • Expanding access to high-speed wireless - The President is calling for a deficit reducing plan to deploy high-speed wireless services to at least 98% of Americans, including those in more remote rural communities, while freeing up spectrum through incentive auctions, spurring innovation, and creating a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety.

    Contractor Impact: There is opportunity for not only companies that provide wireless network capabilities, but also adjacent technology areas that would be facilitated by broader access, such as telehealth and telework.

  • Supporting the Unemployed – The President proposes an overhaul of the Unemployment Insurance program, extending benefits and giving states more responsibility and flexibility to design better programs for reemployment, particularly for the long-term unemployed. There are some 6.2 million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months. States would also have the flexibility to help long-term unemployed workers create their own jobs by starting their own small businesses.

    Contractor Impact: Depending on the scale and nature of the overhaul, states may need assistance in developing, implementing and monitoring new programs and information.

  • Creating Tax Benefits: The Act has several tax incentives for businesses to spur hiring:

    • Payroll taxes - Topping the President's jobs initiative is the cutting of payroll taxes. The plan is to expand cuts worth $240 billion so that workers could expect to see their share halved through 2012. This provision would also cut the payroll tax in half to 3.1% for employers on the first $5 million in wages.
    • Tax Credits for Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed - President Obama's plan would also give companies a $4,000 tax credit for hiring from the 5 million, long-term unemployed Americans.
    • Tax Credits for Hiring Veterans - The unemployment rate for U.S. veterans below the age of 30 hovers around 24%, and that rate could expand. Currently, there are 2 million veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns back home. But once those missions fully draw down, that number could easily double, reports say. The "Returning Heroes tax credit" will set aside $5,600 to $9,600 to encourage the hiring of unemployed veterans.

    Contractor Impact: Tax incentives are useful to any company struggling with cashflow issues.

Spending Summary

Source: White House Office of the Press Secretary

The biggest criticism of the plan that seems to be leading the online debate is the tax credit element, the argument being that businesses only hire when the demand for their product or service is there, not simply to take advantage of tax credits. I tend to believe this will be true, except for those specific areas of investment that will drive demand and therefore the need to hire (e.g. transportation, education, wireless). Driving demand for struggling businesses in flattened industries outside of these will be an issue.

In the current environment, the first question might be "how will the government pay for all of this?"To pay for the plan, President Obama is calling on the Joint Committee that is currently working on a deficit reduction plan (required as part of the debt ceiling agreement) to find additional cuts. Obama noted that in the coming weeks, he would further outline his deficit reduction plans.

So what are the chances of this act passing Congress? Considering the level of contentious debate that has occurred since the 111th Congress was formed, particularly around budget-related legislation (e.g. FY11 budget, debt ceiling), this bill will likely face the same level of scrutiny. However, there are no less than 26 other job bills that were introduced and stalled in Congress in 2011 (some of them with very interesting names such as the "Keep American Jobs from Going Down the Drain Act of 2011," and "Don't Default on America's Debts and Destroy American Jobs Act of 2011").

I'm sure President Obama is hoping for the "Can We Please Just Pass This Bill Without Drawn Out and Stubborn Debate Act of 2011." And he may get his wish. Spurred by plummeting Congressional approval ratings, negative public perception and plain old weariness of continuous head-butting over numerous issues, Congress may be more willing to compromise than we've seen on any other issue in 2011 - as long as Obama's plan to pay for it comes to fruition.

Back to the future: data center consolidation in the states

Data center consolidation continues to be a top priority for many state chief information officers (CIOs) who hope to reduce cost, optimize IT infrastructure, and pursue green IT methods. While most states strive for the same outcomes consolidation efforts can produce, not every state has taken the same path to get there.

Deltek's latest report reviews data center consolidation initiatives in 14 states over a span of 10 years. The report, released last week, looks specifically at common data center consolidation solicitation requirements and examines existing data center backgrounds. The most common consolidation paths focus on facilities, hardware/software, and services, each of which offers a different opportunity to the vendor community.

Data center facility consolidation aims to reduce operating expenses associated with maintaining several data centers statewide while trying to ensure a centralized location does not increase risk. This approach increases performance by streamlining IT services and lowering energy usage. The biggest concerns with data center facility consolidation are security, capacity, and power consumption.

  • Past Opportunity 46168: Georgia; Status- Awarded; Year- 2008
  • Future Opportunity 66506: Minnesota; Status- Acquisitioning; Year- 2010

Data center hardware/software consolidation seeks to optimize the physical IT infrastructure of data centers by standardizing equipment and software. This allows more state agencies and departments to share server space and maximize the use of equipment and software. The most common requirements for hardware/software solicitations are the call for accessibility and scalability, which makes virtualization and cloud approaches popular.

  • Past Opportunity 16409: Oregon; Status- Awarded; Year- 2006
  • Future Opportunity 70414: Idaho; Status- Acquisitioning; Year- 2011

Data center IT services consolidation tries to standardize IT operations and improve performance in an environment where many individual state agencies and departments may pursue autonomous IT services. This approach maximizes the state's buying power for commodity technologies and services while eliminating redundant operations and procurements. The most frequent concern seen in data center solicitations has been reducing cost and increasing statewide operations efficiency.

  • Past Opportunity 33878: Virginia; Status- Awarded; Year- 2005
  • Future Opportunity 58303: Michigan; Status- Planning; Year- 2010

Analyst's Take

As the economic landscape improves for state governments, many data center consolidation efforts that were put on hold or canceled due to the high initial price tag could get a fresh look in 2012 and beyond. However, it's expected these data center consolidation plans may be procured differently from years before, such as using a phased or modular scheme and exploring creative funding options like public-private partnerships. Though slow over the past few years, this state IT initiative has not reached the end of the road just yet. Expect state data center consolidation projects to significantly pick up in the near future.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter or connect with us through LinkedIn.

Videoconferencing a “game changer” in economic growth

The National Association of Counties (NACo) held its 76th Annual Conference and Exposition in Multnomah County, Ore. July 15-19, 2011. Several county officials, vendors and IT professionals attended the event to discuss policies and issues affecting counties nationwide and collaborate on ideas for shaping a bright future despite tough economic times.

In a session on how IT can prepare counties for future success, Dr. Norman Jacknis, director of Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Public Sector Group, touted the benefits of Internet videoconferencing. Jacknis proclaimed videoconferencing as a "game changer" that's only at the start of its global impact. In a recent forecast from the Cisco Visual Networking Index, business videoconferencing is reported to grow sixfold from 2010 to 2015 at a compound annual growth rate of 41 percent. Additional highlights from the report include:

  • Global Internet video traffic surpassed global peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic in 2010, and by 2012, Internet video will account for more 50 percent of consumer Internet traffic
  • 1 million minutes of video content will cross the global IP network every second in 2015
  • Internet video is now 40 percent of consumer Internet traffic, and will reach 62 percent by the end of 2015, not including the amount of video exchanged through P2P file sharing
  • Internet video to TV tripled in 2010. Internet video-to-TV will continue to grow at a rapid pace, increasing 17-fold by 2015. Internet video-to-TV will be over 16 percent of consumer Internet video traffic in 2015, up from 7 percent in 2010
  • Video-on-demand traffic will triple by 2015. The amount of VoD traffic in 2015 will be equivalent to 3 billion DVDs per month
  • High-definition video-on-demand will surpass standard definition by the end of 2011. By 2015, high-definition Internet video will comprise 77 percent of VoD

Jacknis stressed the need for Internet video and noted that 93 percent of daily communication is nonverbal. He reported that by 2030, the world will achieve a ubiquitous video communication standard. According to a study conducted by Nielsen and the International Data Corporation, the number of Internet video users in the U.S. will grow from nearly 150 million to approximately 180.5 million by 2015.

As videoconferencing continues its rise, physical proximity will no longer dominate communication. This also aligns with the ever-shifting shape of corporate America. As harsh economic realities make their mark, businesses are turning to technology to do more with less. Large organizations can no longer be relied on for significant job and economic growth. Instead, they are turning to global supply chains, outsourcing, contractors instead of employees, and global presence as opposed to one main location.

With the high cost of office space, many companies are implementing remote work environments with Internet video as a main source of communication. This not only cuts costs of office space, it reduces travel costs, eases interview processes, boosts employee retention rates, and allows businesses to recruit talent nationwide without a barrier of physical location. Increased productivity is also a benefit reported in many studies.

State and local governments are now starting to utilize video tools in procurement processes through virtual pre-proposal conferences. By not requiring interested vendors to attend an in-person conference to bid on a project, agency's can increase proposal submission rates and vendor participation. Vendors are more likely to partake in a recorded virtual meeting to avoid travel costs, and are less likely to protest a bid or send agencies repetitive email or phone inquiries.

Outside of business and economic advantages, more and more communities are looking to video tools to stimulate health care efforts. Jacknis highlighted Burlington, VT's Telecare for Rural Health Project, which provides a two-way interactive video and audio tai chi exercise class for seniors. Additionally, video technology is reshaping the medical field as diagnoses, consultations, and even surgery are being conducted remotely. With remote health care, patients can access specialists from around the globe, physicians can easily exchange expertise, and the number of patients seen can increase.

Further, there's no denying the obvious green appeal of video IT, with environmental benefits ranging from fuel and greenhouse gas reduction to decreasing cost-of-living expenses.

As videoconferencing continues to shape the future, more and more state and local entities are looking to implement video tools to aid in daily operations. Here is a look at a few videoconferencing opportunities in the GovWin: Deltek Information Solutions database.

  • Opportunity 60774: On May 3, 2011, Alaska released a request for proposals (RFP) for professional services for a video technology interoperability systems study. This study will look at the practicality of rolling out video technology through the Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement business processes.
  • Opportunity 71894: The county of Los Angeles released a request for information (RFI) for a consolidated video conferencing purchase program on June 9, 2011, in which responses were due by on June 28, 2011. The county is currently reviewing responses in preparation for a formal RFP release.
  • Opportunity 66798: The state of Idaho's current contracts for video teleconferencing equipment and services are set to expire September 2011, and if all options are exercised, could extend to September 2013. GovWin is monitoring this project for any rebids or contract extensions, and will update upon release of new information.

Analyst's Take

Video technology is not only heating up in states and localities, it is on the rise worldwide. This growing effort results in a fiercely competitive vendor landscape. With this comes a decrease in product cost; therefore, it is essential vendors work to provide a solution that appeals to agency budget straps while offering a breadth of features. In closing his presentation, Jacknis said "local collaborations among business, academia, and government, and global collaborations with innovators around the world" are the keys to IT shaping a thriving future economy.

Agencies are looking for solutions with a wide range of benefits, including simultaneous webcam feeds, instant messaging, file sharing, VoIP, multiple live video streams, website sharing, and electronic whiteboard capabilities. Cloud-based solutions are also a plus as many government entities explore branching to cloud services. Lastly, the ability to interoperate with other vendor solutions will give your product a leg up in today's market, as will a solution that allows for significant on-screen movement without a declining frame rate.

Cloud Computing: A Budget's Savior?

For awhile, cloud computing seemed erroneous when coupled with technological advancement. Concerns with privacy and security made it especially difficult to build the case for cloudware technology, particularly in the government sphere. Only recently has cloud computing been seen as the next step in the enhancement of information technology. For instance, cloudware technology has manifested extensively on a national level, which can be seen with the federal government's Cloud First initiative. The main objective of Cloud First is cost efficiency through the adoption of light technology and shared services. The strategy evolved from the Obama administration's information technology reforms from the 2012 budget. The feds are expected to close 800 data centers in 2012, and 2,100 by 2015. The General Services Administration (GSA) will be the first federal agency to adopt a cloud-based solution for email. Agencies will be required to "default to cloud-based solutions whenever a secure, reliable, cost-effective cloud option exists."

One of the most touted benefits of cloud computing is its cost effectiveness. Implementation of cloudware technology is quick, and startup costs are significantly lower than information systems. With cloud computing, infrastructure can be manipulated instantly, making enhancements and modifications to systems much easier and less time consuming. When state and local departments utilize this technology, they are able to rid of ongoing maintenance and operational expenses that often place heavy burdens on budgets. Departments are able to save on investments and no longer have to worry about shelling out money to fix antiquated legacy systems. For instance, in 2008, Colorado's Office of Information Technology began to consolidate its IT systems across 17 executive branch agencies. The effort grew from the desire to steer away from an unsustainable siloed environment. Cloud computing seemed to be a natural fit for the state because of its ability to host multiple agencies. The state ended up saving an average of $8 million per year and consolidated a total of 40 data centers. Similarly, Utah's Department of Technology Services is currently spearheading a cloud computing initiative with a goal to deliver hosted email and Web applications to cities and counties within the state. The effort was triggered by budgetary challenges, whereby the state's legislature agreed to find a way to reduce the state's technology budget by $4 million. The initiative is services-oriented, where common infrastructure, information and solutions will be shared and reused across state government agencies. Utah's overarching goal is to create a more agile state enterprise where services can be reused and provisioned instantly to meet agency needs in a cost-effective manner.

States are aware of challenges with integration and have been exploring ways it can be achieved within state and local organizations. For example, New York is currently involved in a project known as the IBM Municipal Shared Services Cloud. The effort will allow local governments to appropriately share information internally and across governments. The project is expected to improve integration, collaboration and transparency. Clients will be able to access Software as a Service (SaaS) on the cloud rather than paying for hardware, software and solution development. Users will be able to select what they need and subscribe as necessary. The project is also expected to terminate competition and instead encourage sharing between governments. IBM's platform will support safe sharing between governments providing standard services with variations customized to local needs. The platform will also provide dashboards for government officials and citizens, making operations more transparent and enforcing an open government. The project is expected to launch in early 2011 in New York municipalities and Michigan, and extend to other cities throughout the year. To read more about states and their corresponding cloud computing initiatives visit GovWin's recent Analyst Perspective on Cloud Adoption. (Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

GovWin's Take

With the rising acceptance of cloudware technology and the challenges states continue to face with budgets, integration and consolidation; it is only a matter of time before more solutions are adopted across health and human service departments. States are inevitably at different levels in moving toward the cloud platforms. For that, the implementation of cloud computing for system integration in health and human services departments will be driven by diverse factors and motivators within states.

Overview of the 5th Annual State and Local Procurement Symposium

The 5th Annual State and Local Procurement Symposium: "Pointing the Way, State and Local Procurement in Challenging Times," was held May 13-14, 2010, in Seattle, Washington. The focal point of the conference was on the state and local procurement process and the laws by which it is governed. New developments and trends within government purchasing were also covered.

Key topics of the conference included:

  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and obligations that come with it
  • Technology and its future role in procurement
  • State and local false claim acts
  • Trends and lessons learned with bid protests
  • State and local efforts to "go green"
These topics were covered during several presentations that offered both a government and legal standpoint.

Regarding efforts to "go green," Chief Procurement Officer for the State of Washington Christine Warnock outlined many of the trends and challenges in green purchasing. She reported on a substantial development in this effort, the National Association of State Procurement Officials' (NASPO) Green Purchasing Task Force. The task force seeks to identify and share best practices in environmentally preferable purchasing and maintain a resource guide for state members and policymakers on standards, product specifications, and policies for implementing green purchasing programs.

As stated in the policy statement:

"NASPO seeks to leverage the purchasing power of state and local government to conserve energy and national resources, limit environmental pollution and waste, improve public health, encourage clean technologies, and create cost saving opportunities and a balanced economy. NASPO will accomplish this through the development of policies, programs, and information resources that educate procurement decision makers on environmental issues and solutions."

Thus far, the Green Purchasing Task Force has achieved many goals, including publishing the NASPO Green Purchasing Resource Guide and the 2009 Green Purchasing Trends Report. These publications offer trends data and provide resources to state and local governments seeking to initiate or enhance environmental procurements. NASPO has also established a partnership/membership with Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN) that gives all of its members a two-year subscription. This is an outstanding resource for state and local environmental purchasing agents. RPN provides members with cutting edge procurement tools and resources designed to save money, conserve resources, reduce waste, and improve efficiency.

Despite promising developments, there are many challenges ahead regarding green procurement. Even with the trends report, measuring and tracking logistics and accuracy of green spending will continue to be a difficult task. Structure and guidance are needed on certification and standards with green procurement to help remedy this situation. In the future, environmental momentum should swing the legal landscape of purchasing and begin to affect the legislative and policy/procedural aspects of state and local procurement.

2010 Beyond the Beltway Conference Recap

TechAmerica presented their 2010 Beyond the Beltway conference on March 22, 2010 at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner, Virginia. A key session of the day included Anne Margulies, Chief Information Officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Karen W. Robinson, Interim Executive Director of the Texas Department of Information Resources and Interim Chief Technology Officer for the State of Texas, and Teri Takai, Chief Information Officer for the State of California.

Anne Margulies kicked off the panel by briefly reviewing the Commonwealth's Information Technology Strategic Plan. Highlights of the plan – and projects currently underway – include consolidation of information technology governance, a new data center that will be 70 percent more energy efficient, an extended broadband infrastructure, which the Commonwealth has received stimulus funding for, and system modernization made possible by the Commonwealth's IT Capital Plan. The Commonwealth is currently in their second year of their five-year Capital Plan that allows the modernization of major systems such as the upcoming motor vehicle system, integrated tax system, and human resources system. Looking to the future Margulies stressed the importance of Health Information Technology (HIT) in Massachusetts and the Commonwealth's goal to be leaders in the endeavor. Other future projects on the Commonwealth to-do list are continuing and advancing their efforts toward open data and government transparency, encouraging civic engagement through the use of social media tools, and revamping their transportation system with smart highways and sophisticated communications. To conclude, Margulies urged vendors who wished to do business with the Commonwealth to do their homework: read their Strategic Plan, come ready to assess the Commonwealth's specific needs, and to treat Massachusetts as an enterprise.

Karen W. Robinson brought a little piece of Texas culture with her as she used a barrel race to explain Texas' plan for technology improvement. Robinson's current plan for Texas is to build momentum so that the state may continue to succeed in their technology endeavors. Robinson attributed each barrel in a barrel race to one of four key attributes to success for Texas and its Department of Information Resources as she talked of good equipment, a healthy lifestyle, a solid team, and finally the ability to continue to move forward. Robinson highlighted the success of Texas' statewide cooperative contracts that has over 2,800 customers within the state. Large projects for Texas, such as the TEX-AN Program were discussed as the first RFO for the project for a Security Operations Center (SOC) will be released in the upcoming weeks (GovWin Opportunities 17053 and 50995). Robinson concluded her portion of the panel by stressing to vendors the importance of teamwork and collaboration when working with the State of Texas.

Teri Takai of California concluded the panel as she presented the California Office of the Chief Information Officer's (OCIO) report card. Highlights of the Report Card include a completed Strategic Plan, an information technology capital plan, a project management office, and a reorganization proposal. With the reorganization proposal, a new order has been created in California in regards to their information technology governance in which all Agency Information Officers (AIO) must be approved by OCIO and any enterprise architecture must also be approved by OCIO. Additionally, a 14 member cabinet of information officers appoints a Information Security Officer (ISO) to each agency. Takai touched on the difficulty found in reorganization due to entrenched agency-specific cultures. However, currently California hopes to take this new order and use it to develop a smooth model toward consolidation that will stand the test of administration change, especially since 2010 is an election year. Other goals for California include a reduction of data center square footage and a possible move toward virtualization. Takai summarized California's current technology environment as consolidating on two fronts: governance and information systems.

To conclude the Big State Update and Outlook panel, conference participants asked the CIOs a series of questions regarding the states' plans for including localities in their consolidation plans and how to build an information technology infrastructure that can withstand change. In regards to localities' involvement in statewide consolidation, all three women responded no for the time-being, stressing the need to focus on the state level first. Margulies however went on to say, that upon successful completion of the Commonwealth's consolidation efforts, Massachusetts plans to work with its cities and towns next. As for the creation of a resilient infrastructure, Margulies stressed the necessity to make the infrastructure administration and CIO-proof, Robinson expanded on that by highlighting the importance of agency collaboration, and Takai concluded by addressing participants in the room, saying vendors need to acknowledge their role in the information technology community.

Following the Big State Update was a panel on State Trends and Issues. Speakers for this panel included Ken Theis, Director and Chief Information Officer for the Michigan Department of Information Technology, Eugene J. Huang, Government Operations Director for the National Broadband Task Force, and Kevin Kampschroer, Director of the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings of the General Services Administration's Public Building Services.

Kevin Theis led the panel with an "opportunity of a lifetime" as he introduced Health Information Technology (HIT). Theis emphasized the ability to influence and reshape the entire health industry by allowing for the capture of information (HIT), the ability to move that information through Health Information Exchange (HIE), and the ability to govern this process through Regional Health Information Offices (RHIO). Theis described Michigan's approach to HIT and their goal to have HIE fully operational by 2014. The State is currently working on their governance model, which is due by the end of April. Theis also stressed the complexity of HIT, particularly when it comes to building and creating a backbone for each state so that they can connect at the national level. Though states are taking different approaches on how to manage their funds and how to develop their HIT programs, Theis concluded his portion of the panel by emphasizing the brevity of the opportunity and the likelihood states will seek out vendors who have proven expertise in the industry.

Eugene Huang gave a brief presentation on the progress of broadband as he went over the goals of the recently released National Broadband Plan. Huang also ran down a few of the recommendations from the National Plan that included the expansion of the wireless communications spectrum, a reform of the universal service fund, providing affordable broadband to lower-income households, building a path to a nationwide public safety network, a reform of the eRate program, and the expansion of the federal networks contract to the state and local network. In terms of what's next for broadband, Huang stated the Plan's recommendations are already being implemented, and the next steps need to be taken by Congress for additional recommendations.

In Kevin Kampschroer's presentation regarding green buildings, Kampschroer made his point very clear as he began by stating if we are not building a green building, it would be more economical to not build at all. Kampschroer stressed the importance of the integration of the function of the building with the manner in which it is built. Kampschroer talked about simple changes, such as turning servers around in a data center as an example, so that heat generated from servers could be recycled for the cooling of the building. Overall, Kampschroer stressed how the minimum standard mentality in building needs to change.

Following the State Trends and Issues panel, a Big City and County update took place with speakers Bryan Sivak, Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia, Ron Bergmann, First Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications in New York City, and Catherin Maras, Chief Information Officer of Bear County, Texas.

Bryan Sivak led the City discussion as he spoke of his efforts to espouse a philosophy with his governing. Sivak went over his plan to transform Washington, D.C. into an agile government. With an agile process, agile people, and the agile tools, Sivak discussed the ability to transform the way in which government works. He highlighted some projects he has implemented since his appointment in October 2009, which include starting an internal blog for government workers where questions can be posted and answers found moments later. The project started with only six people and within three months has grown to 400 participants. Track.dv.gov is another new development that allows constituents to track their government using a real-time operating tool. According to Sivak, future endeavors for D.C. include the expansion of broadband and the public computing ability.

Ron Bergmann provided a brief overview of technology activity in New York City currently and what the City hopes to accomplish in the coming years. Bergmann stated that the City should be looked at as an enterprise more now than ever before. Recently appointed Commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, Carole Post, released her 30 Day Report at the beginning of March that highlighted big projects in store for the City. Bergmann expanded upon these projects as he spoke of the City's consolidation efforts and their plans for modernizing the city data centers. Bergmann spoke of three enhanced units: accountability and vendor management, web and media operations, and telecommunications and broadband. Like Sivak in D.C., Bergmann believes New York City will find success in failing early and inexpensively.

Catherine Maras, relatively new to Bear County, provided the sole county overview of the conference. Maras began by introducing Bear County as a county that has been extremely fortunate in the economic recession due to its broad base. Currently Maras explained she is working with her team to develop a finalized working strategy for her office and for the County. To summarize their efforts thus far, Maras described her goals for office to be results-oriented, innovative, and to provide excellent services. Maras stated she and her team are working on defining lines of business for the County. New technology initiatives for the County include a new CAD system, a fully integrated justice system, ERP implementation, GIS, and social media.

The conference concluded with a panel that involved all speakers with the addition of the Honorable James D. Duffey Jr., Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Duffey provided an update on the Virginia agreement with Northrop Grumman saying the focus currently is to try and put things back on track with the outsourcing project. When later asked what Virginia's priorities will be three years from now, Duffey responded he wanted to be able to say outsourcing was the right decision. Other questions posed to panelists covered topics such as their ideal sales call, how governments are addressing procurement transformation, and how agencies are coping with retiring baby-boomers.

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