Moving Mountains: Colorado charts path towards IT consolidation in new report

The Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) released a report earlier this month outlining the massive structural and organizational changes made of over the last six to eighteen months, as well as charting an ambitious course for projects in the near future. CivSource spoke with OIT Chief of Staff Dara Hessee and Chief Enterprise Architect Leah Lewis about OIT’s transformation and how the state is positioning itself to be a leader in IT practices nationwide.

In 2008, the Colorado General Assembly passed SB08-155, a bill to centralize IT management in OIT. SB08-155 laid the foundation for OIT’s transformation by authorizing a structural reorganization and consolidation effort over a four-year period. The legislation’s main thrust will be felt this July when Colorado’s 996 IT personnel, from fifteen executive agencies, begin receiving their paychecks from OIT. This relatively benign shift signifies one of the most complex consolidation and reorganization efforts being tackled in the public sector today.

The Colorado Consolidation Plan, dubbed C2P, is the state’s IT roadmap, and according to the Governor’s report: Transforming Colorado Government for Today and the Future, OIT has made “tremendous inroads in creating a consolidated enterprise that will enable the State to optimize spending for IT decisions, projects and technology, improve enterprise service delivery, and allow for the rapid deployment of innovative IT solutions.”

“The way we look at this effort, there are three components: People, Processes and Technology,” Leah Lewis, Chief Enterprise Architect, said in an interview.

As part of the people component, Lewis said OIT conducted a skills assessment of the nearly 1000 agency IT staff, spread across the state. “To look across [state] agencies and see where IT skills lie had never been done before. It allowed us to functionally align the staff,” added Dara Hessee, Chief of Staff for OIT.

OIT created this “functional structure” of employee organization in order to support agencies’ lines of business while ensuring the delivery of enterprise services, the report stated. Some of the functional bands include IT infrastructure, enterprise services and information security, to make sure no matter which department technology is being used, it is in lockstep with OIT’s broader framework.

Adding urgency to the realignment was the realization that nearly 40 percent of the state’s IT workforce will be eligible to retire soon. This created problems when projecting legacy application life cycles, according to Hessee. “There was a real need to leverage skills and fill gaps across the state.” And to make sure individual agency needs were not lost in the shuffle, Hessee said, “We put an emphasis on agency business needs to make sure the line-of-business applications are maintained properly.”

Thousands of hours and hundreds of meetings have been conducted over the last twenty months to realign the state’s IT workforce, but due to the nature of SB08-155 no new money has been appropriated for OIT to conduct their reorganization. “There has been no new money – we are doing this within existing resources,” Lewis said. “When this started, we had not hit the official recession. Net neutral was the goal and since then we have faced several budget reductions, so we’ve been doing this while cutting.”

To accomplish this reorganization, OIT worked closely with their finance director, Todd Olson, and other state and federal auditors to effect the necessary budget transfers and renegotiate contracts with vendors.

Agencies have different “colors of money,” including cash, federal grants, and general funds, Lewis said. So when OIT was transitioning all the staff, reams of audit rules and accounting procedures had to be obeyed. “Our billing model had to be very solid,” Lewis said.

Although the four-year consolidation plan is only half complete, both Lewis and Hessee know a major hurdle in the reorganization of OIT has been cleared.

Ms. Lewis underscored the importance of the workforce realignment to the broader C2P goals, saying, “This was something that needed to happen.”

This is the first in a series of articles focused on Colorado’s IT Consolidation Plan. In the next installment, Ms. Hessee and Ms. Lewis discuss the governing process and technology of OIT’s C2P transformation, including the state’s data center consolidation, public facing initiatives, and governing processes guiding the department as it moves forward. For part two of the series, click here. For part three, click here.