Larry A. Olson -- approaching his first anniversary as Texas CTO and director of the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) -- was guest speaker at the Center for Digital Government's March 8 Executive Teleconference.

Olson's career spans both public and private sectors. He was Pennsylvania's first CIO under then-Governor Tom Ridge, and Olson has been the subject of a number of articles in Government Technology, the most recent in January.

Olson gave teleconference participants a quick overview of the state and its strategy, emphasizing the state's need for IT consolidation, and its Foundation for Change report. In it, Olson says Pennsylvania's five-year savings of $270 million in IT infrastructure was "practice for what we will do in Texas."

The Foundation for Change report, said Olson, outlines the need for a new governance model to leverage resources as a statewide enterprise, and that DIR's core mission is to provide an infrastructure layer, and shared services, with "shared functions on top of that." DIR will handle the infrastructure, he said, and that will enable agencies to better handle their missions.

Last June, Olson led a reorganization of DIR and its 220 staff. The state needed to create a framework to deliver large contracts; to maximize purchasing power, deliver a cost-effective statewide shared infrastructure, and ensure the security of state IT assets. Seven DIR divisions were reduced to four and aligned to those objectives: Strategic Initiatives, IT Security, Telecommunications, and Service Delivery. Service delivery includes consolidation of procurement and contracting for DIR customers, which also include local governments, K-12 school districts and universities.

Olson participated in Legislative hearings on contracting and identifying weaknesses of agencies in regard to execution. As a result, the Texas Project Delivery Framework was developed which will be applied to all IT-based contracts over $1 million. It will be used to manage all phases, budgets and schedules, and will align to agency goals. Olson said the framework includes "five stage gates" which are: business justification, and a state impact analysis; project planning; solicitation and contracting; implementation; and assessment of project success.

The agency head personally signs off on the deliverables of each gate, and is responsible for the project all the way through, said Olson, "not the IT person, but the business person will have operational accountability."

To maximize volume purchasing, DIR recently withdrew from a regional buying consortium, and formed its own, including state agencies, local governments, K-12 schools and universities.

To reduce the costs of hardware, said Olson, a standardized configuration PC was developed, and even other state and local governments can buy from the contract. "Last month," said Olson, "The City of New York Sanitation Department used our contract." He encouraged participants to go to the DIR Web site store.

Consolidation of data centers has been a priority in Texas for several years, said Olson, and the state developed a comprehensive plan. An assessment of telecommunications services is being done at 26 different state agencies, and the state is also assessing how best to use an outsourcing data center in San Angelo.

By mid-April proposals are due for a statewide messaging platform which will be delivered by the provider as a managed service. Fifteen agencies are participating and once the agreement is in place, it will be made available to non-state customers as well.

In addition, a study of IT security investments will be completed in about two months, said Olson.

Olson said that House Bill 1516 introduced in the current legislative session reflects the major reforms.

"We are very focused on execution and priorities," said Olson. "First priority is the Texas Project Framework, second is shared services, date centers and telecom, security and messaging. The best way to work with us is to work with the appropriate divisions at DIR.
Wayne Hanson  |  Editor