States consolidate technology in response to tough economy

Consolidating IT infrastructures used by hundreds of state government agencies not only makes financial sense but also positions states to better use technology, state CIOs say.

Consolidating information technology infrastructures used by hundreds of state government agencies not only makes financial sense but also positions states to better use technology, according to several state CIOs.

For example, Massachusetts officials consolidated 100 IT agency groups into eight organizations and are in the process of consolidating all of the state’s IT infrastructure under the direction of a single organization, Anne Margulies, the state’s chief information officer said today.

“In Massachusetts we are moving very dramatically from an environment that is a fragmented patchwork of technology to a coherent, robust infrastructure,” Margulies said at the Beyond the Beltway State & Local Government IT Market Watch conference.

“Since the economic crisis began, we are already managing technology in a dramatically different way in the commonwealth,” Margulies said. “Instead of managing a fragmented environment, we are in fact changing the mindset and now are managing our technology as an enterprise.”

Massachusetts plans to consolidate 183 data centers into just two, she said. Construction of a new data center in Springfield, Mass., is scheduled to start in April and be completed by January 2012. The new data center should be 70 percent more energy efficient than an existing state data center just outside of Boston, Margulies added.

Efforts to make government data more open and accessible is also helping the state government serve its residents during tough economic times, Margulies said. Massachusetts recently released data on public transportation schedules and highway construction schedules. State officials held a developers’ competition that challenged the public to create applications using the data.

Dozens of applications, mostly for the iPhone, were created through the competition, she said. The winner of the contest is expected to be announced this month. Although the competition was successful, state officials still have a lot to learn about citizen engagement using social media, Margulies said.

“We feel like we’ve spent a lot of energy and resources on social media, but to be honest we aren’t really seeing the impact that would have expected so far in this area,” she said. “We know there is something there and we are eager to get this right, but we don’t have all the answers.”

Officials in California’s government are also turning to consolidation to save money and become more efficient, said Teri Takai, the state’s chief information officer. The state is moving to a shared services and infrastructure environment. In the past, the state’s IT culture encouraged each agency to pursue IT projects on its own, Takai said.

“Trying to corral that is not so much a question of trying bring the IT folks together, as it is trying help the business units understand that they to can benefit from sharing,” she said. One change made in an effort to eliminate the go-it-alone mentality in California is that all IT employees are now required to report to a CIO.

State officials also now require that all IT projects get approved at the Cabinet level, she said. “That doesn’t seem like it should be revolutionary, but interestingly enough it was,” Takai said.

Texas is also using consolidation to maximize state budgets, said Karen Robinson, the state’s interim chief technology officer.

For example, later this year Texas officials plan to release a request for offers to continue building out the largest communications and data network in the nation, Robinson said. The network is composed of IP circuits and voice networks serving 628 customers, she said. Customers include the state agencies, local governments, universities, schools and more, she said.

The state plans to award multiple contracts for the network including for circuits, dial-in services and voice services, Robinson said.

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