There's no glamour in consolidation. Often sold as a way to rein in IT costs, CIOs are usually stuck with selling what's perceived as a negative by most agencies. Staff members dislike the disruption, the change and cost cutting. In the end, many CIOs end up drained of all momentum for initiating anything of strategic value.

That's not the case with Utah CIO Steve Fletcher. In 2005, out of the dysfunction and failure of running IT as separate agency fiefdoms, the state created the Department of Technology Services (DTS) and hired Fletcher to run what has become one of the nation's few fully centralized state IT departments.

Fortunately the state hired someone with both prior government IT experience - as CIO for the U.S. Department of Education - and a solid business private-sector background. Fletcher also has a flair for leadership that enabled DTS to succeed.

Since taking over, Fletcher streamlined how technical staff service remote government locations in the large, mountainous state - reducing travel time and labor costs. He also took control of an IT project that many government CIOs would gladly avoid: a state enterprise social service system. It is, in theory, a Holy Grail of systems integration. In reality, it can be an unwieldy IT project that may often buckle under the weight of federal policy mandates, cost overruns, cultural issues and inflexible software.

Fletcher took over the state's fledgling enterprise program for health and human services (HHS) eligibility and case management, after removing the systems integrator who was struggling to keep the project on track. Fletcher made DTS the project integrator, partnered with the system's software vendor to ensure quality in the system's modules, and worked with the state's HHS agencies to maximize project management success.

Why did Fletcher believe it would succeed? "For one thing, we have control over the entire project and it's cheaper this way," he said.

That control is balanced by solid relationships with the software vendor and the various business managers who have a stake in the project's outcome. Fletcher's unique background as both a public CIO and businessman makes him uniquely positioned to lead government IT in the 21st century.

Tod Newcombe  |  Contributing Editor