February 29, 2008 By Matt Williams
Missouri CIO Dan Ross is proud of his state's unique IT job "recruitment island" in Second Life, the popular 3-D virtual world built and maintained by users. But he's just as excited about another, decidedly low-tech innovation from his office: pocket-sized cheat sheets for lawmakers.
"We pull statistics together for legislators about what IT delivers to constituents in their specific districts," Ross said. "For every member of the Missouri House and Senate budget committees, we've got little laminated cards that tell them how many of their constituents were able to file their taxes online in fiscal 2007; how many people were able to access state jobs information via different state Web portals; how many folks received professional certification, like podiatrists or embalmers; how many teachers were licensed; even employment claims by their constituents."
It's those kind of low-cost, high-impact advances that Ross has strived for since Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt appointed him state CIO in 2005. For the past three years, Ross has spearheaded the governor's technology consolidation initiative that merged 1,200 employees across 14 Cabinet-level departments. In fiscal 2007, Missouri finished bringing the IT budgets of those agencies into a single entity, the Missouri Information Technology Services Division, which is within the state Office of Administration.
"That was a huge culture change, and brought fear and gnashing of teeth by those agencies that have been building their own budgets for the last 30 years," Ross said. "All of a sudden, at the governor's direction, they had to transfer all of those funds out of their agencies into a centralized IT function."
The consolidation streamlined the state's IT budget and staff - $6 million was trimmed and re-appropriated, and 50 jobs were slashed. At the same time, the state's IT processes, such as purchasing and software rollouts, are more efficient.
"It's not all about cost savings either. Now, we talk in terms of value," he said. "We've signed a contract with AT&T for a next-generation network. They'll manage the state's network for us, which means we'll have access to all current and new technology, and then we also get the redundancy and backup of a utility-class carrier that the state couldn't afford to do on its own." Missouri signed on with AT&T in 2007, and the state is currently negotiating with the vendor about how and where those services will be used.
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