"In crisis lies opportunity."

It's an oft-heard phrase these days, and it was a common theme of last week's Conference on California's Future in Sacramento. But at The Leadership Imperative: Managing in Challenging Financial Times, an IT leadership Summit at the conference, experts from industry and academia explored how the state should go about turning its $15 billion budget deficit into an opportunity.

In California, as in many other states, there is clearly an opportunity for drastic changes. "Everything is on the table," said panelist William D. Eggers, global director of Deloitte's Public Sector Research, who told attendees that the willingness to examine all possibilities was pervasive in both political parties.

"The sacred cows are a little less sacred today," agreed Dr. Christopher Gorton, vice president for medical management at EDS Global Healthcare. Gorton noted that governments spend years launching some programs, and because of it are unlikely to look critically at whether the program is performing as it should. "Government, in many cases, starts to look like a coral reef, and it grows by accretion. And there's some beautiful stuff there, but there's some stuff that frankly the ocean needs to wash away," he said, adding that the current environment presents a good opportunity to pare some of the less valuable programs that may have been traditionally been untouchable.

Because of the current fiscal crisis, Eggers said, government entities are asking themselves the unthinkable: "Should we be doing this in the first place? If we were to start anew, would we still be in this business?"

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