meet quarterly at Executive Leadership Forums to talk about using emerging technology to improve government programs. Cortez also meets with Californias 80 agency CIOs every two weeks in an effort to keep them moving in the same direction.

In addition, the massive task of readying state government computer systems for the year 2000 date change taught IT managers to take a phased approach to large, enterprise projects. Cortez said phasing is particularly important for electronic government projects, which often involve complex process reengineering.

"We are driving big issues such as change management and policy," he said. "Were not just doing technology, so it really requires that we start looking at these things in manageable chunks."

Reaping the Reward

Californias $2 million portal project offers the best evidence yet that the struggle to mold state agencies into a cohesive team is paying off. Completed in slightly more than 100 days, the site offers a tightly integrated package of electronic services from a diverse set of state agencies. It gives users access to about a dozen online services, including booking appointments with the Department of Motor Vehicles, checking the status of tax refunds and reserving state park campsites.

"We started with a core group of about 10 departments for the initial roll out," said Baheti, who was chosen by Davis last year to head the portal implementation. "You can see that those departments really came on board and they believe in it. They really came through for us."

In keeping with the phased philosophy, California will continually integrate more departments and electronic services into the portal. The state is also poised to begin adding local government services to the site.

Building a technical framework with enough capacity and flexibility to meet the sprawling states needs prompted Baheti to take an unconventional implementation approach. Although state governments commonly seek a single vendor for major IT projects, California adopted a best-of-breed strategy involving more than a dozen contractors.

The state tapped Deloitte Consulting for primary integration, Sun Microsystems for hardware and operating systems, Cisco Systems for networking support, Verity for the search engine, BroadVision Inc. for personalization software, Interwoven for content management and Broadbase Software for analytics and e-marketing applications.

"We didnt limit ourselves to one companys platform. To me, thats a dangerous place to be," said Baheti. "Because we went best of breed, we can switch out a component at any moment we want to."

Although the best-of-breed concept may have fallen from favor in government, its well accepted among the commercial businesses that became the model for Californias new Web presence. "We looked at other governments to see how they were doing things, but frankly, the place where we learned the most about the basic approach was the private sector," Baheti said. "Were a Fortune 5 company in terms of our size and our spending. We wanted a Web site that would be credible for any Fortune 5 company."

Bahetis efforts produced a technological framework robust enough to host new e-government services and open enough to allow agencies to plug in existing applications. The state intends to host new applications directly on the portal, which is housed in Californias Teale Data Center. Legacy systems operated by individual agencies will stay put, but theyll be integrated with the site to provide a seamless look and feel.

"We are mandating tighter integration, so all of the presentation layer will be coming through the portal," said Baheti. "We dont necessarily want to move everything onto the portal. Thats an option, but Im wary of taking a one-size-fits-all approach in a state thats this diverse and has this many legacy systems."

California funded the portals construction through a general fund appropriation to the Department of General Services (DGS), and agencies pay a fee to access

Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  | 

Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic.