Entering office in 2003, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty immediately had his hands full. The state budget was $4.5 million in the red, and nearly half the state's work force would reach retirement age in fewer than 15 years.

Pawlenty's solution was transformation. The governor demanded, through a series of executive orders issued in 2005, that Minnesota state government begin acting like a single enterprise instead of a loose amalgamation of independent agencies.

Pawlenty's plan, known as the Drive to Excellence, called for changes in a wide range of state operations -- addressing how the state purchases goods and services, how it licenses and regulates businesses, and how it manages grants and real property, to name a few.

Slightly more than a year later, the reforms -- powered by a healthy dose of new technology -- are starting to pay off.

A strategic sourcing initiative is expected to save more than $20 million annually on state purchases. A new Web portal provides one-stop access to more than 600 licensing programs operated by more than 40 state agencies. And construction-regulation reform is consolidating activities previously spread across five state agencies into a single Construction Codes and Licensing Division.

As chairman of the initial Drive to Excellence steering committee, Scott Brener played a key role in selling these massive changes to skeptical state agencies. Brener, commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry, helped lead a process that solicited recommendations from top management and front-line agency employees throughout the state. The result was more than 400 ideas for improving government operations. Ultimately the suggestions were distilled into a road map that guides the massive transformation initiative.

For Minnesota citizens, these reforms are building a government that not only can withstand the upcoming retirement wave, but also delivers better services at a lower price.

Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  |  Editor

Steve Towns is editor of Government Technology, and executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government Technology,Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market.