March 1, 2010 By Hilton Collins
It seems like every other government department has either played the IT consolidation game or is racing toward the finish line. But if any of them want to see how to play to win, they should look at Massachusetts. The state is consolidating services and infrastructure, including 183 data centers, 100 phone systems, 24 e-mail systems and 15 major data networks.
Under the leadership of Gov. Deval Patrick and CIO Anne Margulies, the state's streamlining appears to be going so smoothly that it has surprised even Margulies.
"I know it is a very large-scale complex change, and people just don't like change," she said. "It's gone better than I thought it would because people have been extraordinarily collaborative in ways that I think they haven't had to in the past."
Patrick's early decisions set the groundwork for the transition. In February 2009, he issued Executive Order 510 to consolidate the state's technical resources and create eight new secretariat CIOs, in addition to the existing state CIO. The overall goal was to build an IT environment that's more secure and efficient than the old systems. Massachusetts is currently in Phase 3 of the four-phase effort that's expected to be completed in December 2010.
Patrick took office in January 2007, and soon after that he filed a $1.47 billion bond bill to finance technology projects as capital investments, similar to transportation, public safety and environmental initiatives.
"This governor recognized the importance in making important long-term investments in technology," said Margulies.
Patrick also recognizes the power of social media to reach constituents. He's on Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and has a blog. He's an advocate of open communication in other areas, exemplified by the Open Data Initiative his administration launched to make public information available to citizens via an online data catalog from various departments.
That spirit of open communication has already shown itself in the consolidation efforts. To keep state employees and other stakeholders informed, Margulies and her staff created a detailed interactive wiki and video, which can be accessed from the Information Technology Division (ITD) Web site. Margulies also narrates a YouTube video that explains the project's concept, development and expected completion date, in addition to the ITD's weekly news blast and quarterly newsletter.
"I think that by putting all of our material out there openly and getting as many people engaged in a meaningful way, it will help us accomplish a huge amount in a short period of time," Margulies said.
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