As manufacturing job losses gut Michigan's economy, local CIOs search for creative ways to eliminate costs. Phil Bertolini, CIO of Oakland County, Mich., established a Cost-Reduction/Investment blog in summer 2009 on which employees, regardless of rank, could propose cost-cutting ideas. Suggestions from the blog have slashed $600,000 from the county's annual IT budget so far.

Why did you target the ideas of employees below the executive level?

Us at the top, we know a lot, but we don't know everything, so we've put together a cost-reduction blog where the employees could come in and bring ideas to the table. They would go out and do the research, provide the links and everything that was necessary to vet it properly. We've implemented more than $600,000 of cost reductions annually, based on the employees' suggestions.

How often do you check the blog for suggestions?

As a steering committee, every week we meet over the blog, respond and begin the conversation over that tool to get to the end result, which is the savings.

Watch Video: Oakland County, Mich., cuts $600,000 from its IT budget due to suggestions made by employees on the agency's cost reduction blog.

How does the $600,000 savings compare to the other cost reductions you've implemented?

We had a number of different areas in which we made reductions. We've cut our IT budget by about $8 million, and $4 million of capital funds were cut. To make those kinds of numbers work - our budget hovers around $35 million a year - we had to find different ways to make the reductions. We had done a number of central things to lower our cost of licensing and implementing certain technologies, but the employees are the ones in the trenches working with those technologies every day. They brought forward suggestions that saved us that additional $600,000.

Do other Oakland County agencies plan to implement cost-reduction blogs of their own?

Because of the success in the IT department, we have now given all departments in county government an opportunity to use the blog, and they are now providing savings to the county as well. I am also in charge of facilities engineering, and they have found hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings from the employees' suggestions.

 

Andy Opsahl  |  Features Editor