February 8, 2005 By Merrill Douglas
Traditionally many forces conspired to foster IT anarchy within the state, spurring problems for both state agencies and local governments. For example, IT professionals cannot easily move from one agency to another, because each agency has a different technology setup. Without statewide architecture standards, different skills are needed for the same job titles among the various agencies, which results in inefficiency and added training costs, Dillon said.
Local governments struggle to satisfy technology requirements imposed by different state agencies, which act independently. "We realize that with stovepiped funding streams the way they are, budgetary pressures, appropriation language, that we were setting up circumstances where state agencies, with the best of intentions, could be putting out different systems and system requirements that would be a burden for local government," Dillon said.
A county department of social services, for example, must use applications developed by several different state agencies. These might run on separate computing platforms, and each one might even require a different communications infrastructure. "We've had individual county employees with two, three, four PCs on a desk, because every program required a different PC," said Norman Jacknis, CIO of Westchester County and co-chair of the council's technology committee.
"To a certain extent, Jim Dillon was surprised at how strong the support was from county CIOs for his efforts at establishing an enterprise approach for the state," said Jacknis. "And I said, 'You have to realize, we're the ones at the bottom of all these silos. We see all this insanity.'"
Since the council started meeting in late 2002, it has tackled several major projects. One has been helping the Office of the CIO develop a strategic plan for IT in New York. "The process has been remarkable because it's been inclusive of CIOs from state agencies [and] CIOs from the various counties," said Ron Bergmann, deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications' (DoITT) Office of the CIO. "They truly listened to our viewpoints on the strategic planning committee and accepted virtually all of our input." Each person involved approached the plan from an enterprise perspective, rather than simply watching out for his or her own organization's needs, said Bergmann, who also co-chairs the council's strategic planning committee.
The technology committee developed the first draft of a state enterprise technology architecture, which the council published early in 2004. In its next round, it will work toward some specific standards, said the Office of Mental Health's Felton, who co-chairs the technology committee along with Jacknis.
As New York state agencies start replacing legacy applications, such as the welfare management and tax systems, a statewide architecture and standards will help eliminate the stovepipes that have caused so many problems in the past, Dillon said. Local governments will run different state applications, with a similar look and feel, on the same platforms.
The architecture also promotes more efficient work force management, said Mike Nevins, CIO of the New York State Department of Labor and co-chair of the council's leadership committee. (Nevins recently resigned from these positions to work in the private sector.) "To the extent that, particularly the major agencies with large IT staffs begin to align with an enterprise architecture, it will make our lives a little easier in terms of personnel training and the transfer of personnel that's allowed via the civil service system," he said.
Nevins' committee took the lead in a third council project: developing a peer review process. The New York State Forum for Information Resource Management (NYSFIRM), an organization of public-sector IT professionals and industry representatives, worked with several state agency
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