CIOs on a checklist to guide large technology initiatives, Dillon said. Under the peer review process, volunteer CIOs examine agencies' projects and make sure they follow the checklist, he said.

"We've often talked about having a peer review process," said Gregory Benson Jr., executive director at NYSFIRM, part of the State University of New York's Rockefeller Institute of Government. It wasn't until the state formed the CIO Council, however, that one actually took shape, he said.

What We Need, I Need

One large challenge all state IT councils face is how to balance state enterprise needs with those of individual agencies, said NASCIO's Robinson. Members of New York's CIO Council, however, said the enterprise approach has brought internal benefits to their organizations.

The state Office of Mental Health created its own enterprise architecture committee, a new set of standards, a new project office and a set of IT governance mechanisms modeled on the structures established by the CIO Council, Felton said. Following enterprise principles helped make the agency more efficient, he said. "It's helped make our decisions less idiosyncratic."

The state Department of Labor used the state's enterprise architecture as its guide when it launched a project to rewrite the unemployment insurance system. "It gave us a clear direction that was consistent with where the state was going as an enterprise," Nevins said. In the long run, the architecture will save the department money and make it easier to exchange data with other state information systems, he said.

DOITT's Bergmann pointed to collaboration between New York City and the state to negotiate a software license agreement with Microsoft. "By leveraging and combining the city's and the state's volume of licenses, we've achieved what I'm told is among the best prices of any local jurisdiction," he said, adding that pricing is available to all of New York's state and local government entities.

Local governments also benefit from the communications channels the council has established. In the past, communication with the state could be confusing, said Kim McKinney, IT director for Broome County and co-chair of the council's intergovernmental communications committee. "You didn't always know who was the right person to talk to when you had a problem." Communications are much better now, said McKinney, who is also president of the New York State Local Government Information Technology Directors Association (NYSLGITDA).

Today, when a member of NYSLGITDA gets wind of a state IT initiative that developed without local government input, the organization spreads the word through its listserv, McKinney said. "We take that back to our committee, saying, 'Here's a project that's impacting the locals. They didn't go through the right channels. They didn't send information to the IT directors. Who should we reach out to?'" Committee members either work to correct the matter on their own, or they put local CIOs in touch with the right person at the state level, she said.

The new tendency to reach out runs both ways, as state agency officials make contact with local counterparts through the intergovernmental communications committee, McKinney said. "A lot of them are sending me memos saying, 'Can you review this before I send it out to everybody? Have we hit all the issues? Are we addressing your concerns?'" Today these communications depend on informal relationships, but the committee expects to put an official process in place. "We need to make it less dependent on the people and more dependent on the mechanism," she said.

One thing the council probably will not do is expand its local CIO representation. "We've found that the number we've got is a pretty manageable one," said Dillon. "But we've really worked hard to ensure that the intergovernmental communications does not mean just communicating with the counties that are on the committee."

Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer