Moving Mountains: Concurrent Swim Lanes in OIT’s consolidation plan

The Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) is in year two of a four-year consolidation plan, meant to transform the way government delivers IT in the state. In conversations with OIT Chief of Staff Dara Hessee and Enterprise Architect Leah Lewis, they explained the importance of solid governance strategies and the need to address aging technology investments within the state’s portfolio, especially given the rigid budget constraints of the foreseeable future.

In part one of this series, CivSource examined OIT’s consolidation plan from a human resource perspective, focusing on the realignment of Colorado’s IT workforce into functional bands, rather than by agency. In this article, we’ll look at the process and technology aspects of C2P

In a report released earlier this March, OIT outlined several controls and governance strategies meant to optimize a newly aligned IT workforce based on functional areas of expertise. Aligning budget, procurement, planning, auditing and other related areas, has been a big priority, said Chief Enterprise Architect Leah Lewis.

“We’ve implemented several financial controls,” she said, including an annual review of ongoing support and future IT needs of individual agencies through department IT plans. DITPs help OIT ensure IT budgets are spent in responsible ways, as well as identify levels of demand or areas of shared use for technologies. Lewis said the governance framework for enterprise architecture includes the Colorado Architecture Review Board, composed of senior leadership at OIT and the chief financial officer. “We can ensure that agency purchases are within the standards that OIT sets.”

Additional controls exist in:

  • Procurement – where proposed IT expenditures in excess of $10,000 need to be reviewed and approved to make sure it aligns with existing standards and uses the enterprise architecture effectively. In July 2009, OIT suspended all expenditures related to IT hardware and software maintenance until these agreements can be consolidated into enterprise level agreements, which will provide the state cost savings and cost avoidance for these commodities and services.
  • Contracting – All contracts with IT components require the signoff of the State CIO to ensure enterprise compliance and continued consolidations of repetitive systems. Prior to this transformation, the Executive Branch had nearly 500 active IT related contracts, many of which were buying the same service or commodity at different price points.
  • Accounting, Audits and Reporting – OIT and the Office of the State Controller (OSC) has worked the past year to unify agency IT expenditure reporting. By structuring IT spending from an enterprise perspective OIT expects to realize better reporting capabilities and a clearer understanding of IT expenditures across the state, furthering collaboration and shared services opportunities. Further, internal and external audits will help bolster the control structure, Ms. Hessee explained.

Program Management is another area of importance in OIT’s transformation. IT projects are given designations based on costs and level of risk, Lewis said. For example, if a project costs $5 million or more, has an acquisition cycle that lasts multiple fiscal years, has high public visibility, or spans multiple agencies, it is managed by an Executive Governance Committee (ECG) along with OIT’s Project Management Office (PMO).

“[These controls] helped us get our arms around some seriously troubled projects, Chief of Staff Dara Hessee said. “And now most of these projects have been pulled into a good standing.”

Among OIT’s most needed, ambitious or public-facing IT projects, are the Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS), a Tax Administration IT System modernization, an enterprise resource planning system for the Department of Transportation, a consolidation of the state’s data centers, and the creation of a statewide IT service desk.

“Infrastructure – virtualization, consolidation – is the third leg of the stool, so to speak,” Lewis said. “One of the driving forces behind tech consolidation was a statistic showing we have approximately forty data centers in the metro area. That duplication is expensive and not easy to manage.”

The Department of Revenue’s Tax Administration IT System is among the state’s oldest, nearing its 40th year on the job. In 2007, a previous attempt to replace the aging system failed and was terminated. But a five-year modernization plan was developed in 2007 and the system is currently in its third phase, following the successful processing of corporate and individual sales tax in November of 2009.

CBMS is a system designed to replace several legacy systems and automate several manual processes when case managers are delivering welfare, food stamps and Medicaid to Colorado residents. The project has seen two vendors since 2004. Deloitte took the reins from EDS in 2009 and is making improvements, including online access to benefits information through a Web Portal and streamlining data entry on the back-end.

Right now, OIT is technically in phase two of its four-phase plan, but Ms. Lewis and Ms. Hessee indicated that several components of each of the four phases are making headway at the same time.

“In the process of consolidating our data centers, we realized it necessary to first upgrade the state network,” Hessee said. “These two projects are intricately intertwined and are progressing simultaneously.”

“We are working in concurrent swim lanes,” Lewis agreed, “all components are inter-related.”