What theyre finding is there arent as many differences as they thought."

Holding the purse strings on enterprise-wide projects not only allows OIT to demand inter-agency cooperation, it also gives the office leverage to set aggressive production schedules. For instance, the initial release of the states PA Open for Business Web site -- an eight-agency effort providing one-stop access to all forms needed to open a business in Pennsylvania -- was completed in one month, according to Gerhards.

"We told folks what we wanted to do, and they said, Maybe in nine months we could get a Web site up. We said, Were putting it up in 30 days. Our job is to keep pushing it. We want to keep raising the bar."

Evolving Model

The need to build e-government systems is pushing other states in the same direction. For instance, Illinois Chief Technology Officer Mary Reynolds expects a gradual shift toward centralized IT funding in her state. And legislation may be introduced this year in South Dakota to consolidate money for statewide IT systems and services within the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications budget, according to CIO Otto Doll.

Reynolds said her state planted seeds for an enterprise funding model several years ago with the Illinois Century Network, an ambitious effort to create an integrated voice, video and data network stretching throughout the state. Money for the network still flows from several individual agency budgets, but a multi-agency policy committee headed by Reynolds governs the project.

She said the arrangement nudges agencies closer to consolidated funding for enterprise-wide IT projects.

"Its forced cooperation, but its done in a way that agencies are comfortable with because its still the old way of doing business," she said. "I think you are seeing a transitional period. I dont think it will be this way in a couple of years. Instead, youll see a lot more enterprise-wide projects -- both centrally funded and organized."

Illinois already relies on centralized funding for several new projects, including an enterprise-wide digital signature system. (At press time, this was scheduled to become widely available to state and local agencies in late 2000.) Money for the project is being allocated to the Illinois Department of Management Services, which traditionally has been responsible for statewide telecommunications services and mainframe computing.

In South Dakota, Doll said theres a fair chance state lawmakers will consider moving more IT dollars into his agencys budget this year. "Ive been talking with our finance and management agency, and Ive got them convinced this is the right thing to do. We just havent nailed down the details of how we want to propose it," he said. "Right now theres probably a 50-50 shot at doing something this session."

Dolls Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT) already serves as the primary source of IT equipment and services for South Dakota agencies. However, money for those resources is still appropriated to separate agency budgets. Agencies then spend their budget money with BIT.

Altering the funding model would route state IT dollars directly to BIT instead of passing them through individual agencies first. The change, he said, would allow enterprise-wide IT projects to be considered their own programs, instead of tools used by other programs.

That shift would eliminate duplication, according to Doll. "For instance, when were dealing with permitting and licensing, why dont I do that for the state? Understanding that a drivers license is different than a hunting license, its still the same process, in general," he said. "Whats happened to date is that [government] creates a license system for each program. So you build all of these stovepipe solutions."

BIT already centrally manages some IT assets, such as servers and communication lines, added Doll. In the case of servers,

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.