could not be viewed as an internal vendor from which services were purchased.
Making the Change
Having determined that a charge-back system was not presently useful to us, and would not help us in the future, I approached the CFO.
Finance and budgeting were the principal beneficiaries of data from the charge-back system. To their great credit, the CFO and budget officer understood my viewpoint and agreed to the change in business model I proposed. We determined that an existing, indirect cost-allocation system could distribute costs sufficiently across the enterprise for their purposes.
The early 1998 announcement of our decision to discontinue the charge-back system for IT services was met with great enthusiasm by other departments.
The accompanying announcement that all technology funding would be consolidated in the IT Department budget was greeted a bit less enthusiastically, but was accepted nonetheless.
The decision to eliminate the charge-back system was only one of a half dozen decisions that have guided us over the intervening years. Taken as a group, these decisions let us move very rapidly from a position of technical challenge and frustration to one of national prominence in IT use.
Des Moines has never finished lower than third in the Center for Digital Government's Digital Cities Survey (finishing first in 2002 and 2004), our Web site was a Best of the Web finalist in 2004, and many of our enterprise applications received national attention. Des Moines is a very different organization today than it was in 1998. I'm very proud of the role IT played in that development process.
So, after living without charge-back for six years, what are the upsides and downsides of that decision?
Would I make the same decision again? In a heartbeat.
Although at least one Gartner analyst calls lack of a charge-back system a "worst practice," I am convinced it was the right decision for our vision and our organization.
Other organizations have charge-back systems that work very well. For the strategic role that IT plays in Des Moines, however, our new model has served us very well indeed.