Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter will leave the composition of the state government's IT systems much different than they were when he was elected in 2006. Upon entering office, he was met by a dysfunctional combination of failing computer projects and a jumble of technological assets - 39 data centers, 20 phone systems and 20 e-mail systems.

Ritter realized that consolidating the state's IT functions would provide a centralized system for sound decision-making. Before starting the consolidation, Ritter hired Mike Locatis to be the state's CIO, made the CIO a Cabinet-level position and formed the Governor's Office of Information Technology (OIT).

Locatis had been the CIO of Denver, where he consolidated 20 city and county IT departments into one agency. Prior to that, he worked for Time Warner Cable, building a unified system for its acquisition of 32 cable companies.

After months of planning and research - which included Locatis and his staff interviewing more than 900 state IT professionals, departmental directors and CIOs from six states that had consolidated their IT - the Colorado Consolidation Plan took shape. The plan calls for centralized IT management, purchasing, spending and planning.

"Our consolidation of IT functions may be one of the best things we've done in bringing effectiveness to government and actually doing it with fewer people," Ritter said in 2009 during his acceptance speech for the National Association of State Chief Information Officers' State Technology Champion Award.

So far, Colorado's accomplishments include:

  • suspending, in July 2009, all IT hardware and software maintenance contracts until enterprise-level agreements could be established. Now purchases are done as enterprisewide price agreements through the OIT, Locatis said;
  • eliminating six data centers, with plans to ultimately reduce the total number to two - one for production and one for disaster recovery; and
  • creating the first state chief data officer position to architect data-sharing strategies.

Colorado also is helping others follow in the state's lead - it hosts two-day programs that provide other states with valuable information so they don't have to start from scratch. "We give them our legislation, our policies, our RFPs and procurement wins," Locatis said. "We give them a whole formula so they can really shape it for their jurisdiction."

Colorado's consolidation is on track to be completed by fiscal 2011, although Locatis said it might be finished by the end of 2010. "We're very close to being able to say that we've made Colorado 1,000 percent better in four short years. That doesn't happen very often."

Elaine Pittman  |  Associate Editor

Elaine Pittman is the associate editor for Government Technology, Public CIO and Emergency Management. Before coming to Government Technology, she worked for The Coloradoan daily newspaper in Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached via email and @elainerpittman on Twitter.