in developing proprietary systems and has helped forge new working relationships among agencies.

In June 1996, the best practices process inspired the implementation of a "lead agency" policy. Selected state and local agencies are assigned lead agency status in key technology areas. A lead agency prototypes an emerging or key technology on behalf of the state. The policy is intended to avoid multiple agencies pursuing the same technology without the benefit of another's experience. The task force connects agencies embarking on a new technology, such as "smart cards," with the lead agency. If a pilot is occurring in the lead agency, other agencies may be asked to postpone acquisition until the pilot is completed, after which time a multi-agency RFP may be in order.

Agencies that currently have this status include the Department of Correctional Services for telemedicine, the Department of Motor Vehicles for credit card transactions, and New York City for kiosk technology.

IRM

In another attempt to

bring the knowledge of New York's workforce together, the task force conducts agency operational reviews. At an agency's request, the task force will review internal information resource management (IRM) operations for an entire IRM shop or a particular business unit that is looking at technology to improve its operations. For each review, the task force assembles a special team of highly qualified professionals from different agencies. All recommendations are confidential and the task force is available to assist the agency during implementation if necessary. The recommendations are not mandates. Already, over 15 agencies have requested reviews, and local governments are beginning to ask for help.

PURCHASING

To ensure consistency and to share agency expertise, the task force reviews all purchases over $50,000 and conducts a "peer review" of all major purchases. For example, the departments of Health and Social Services independently embarked on electronic benefits transfer projects for welfare recipients. The task force brought these two agencies together, saving recipients from eventually ending up with two different smart cards. Collaboration in purchasing has also gone beyond New York's state and local agencies. Thomas worked with Texas in a joint agreement to negotiate a multistate software licensing agreement with Corel Corp., a model they wish to pursue with other states and products. The task force has requested all agencies include language in any contract they negotiate that allows other agencies to join in. They have also developed a Web site for purchasing agents offering pricing information for desktop computers, portables and printers. Pricing updates are entered directly by the vendors who have access only to their firm's information. Thomas estimates the task force saved $10 million from these coordinated efforts in 1996.

STATEWIDE INTRANET

Last August, the task force issued a network policy introducing the "NYT" -- pronounced "net" -- a statewide, closed and secure intranet that will carry data and ultimately voice and video. The NYT, administered by a governance council, will evolve incrementally, operate on voluntary participation and target state and local government. The policy includes the statewide adoption of the TCP/IP protocol and maps an implementation timeline through the year 2000.

BECOMING "BUSINESS FRIENDLY"

The task force is also obtaining advice from the private sector. Thomas convened a Business Community Subcommittee -- comprised of a variety of sectors such as agriculture and banking, but excluding technology companies -- which has been making recommendations on how the task force can make New York more "business friendly," a key component of the Pataki agenda. The business subcommittee saw online transactions as the wave of the future and suggested assigning a single unique identifier to companies doing business with the state.

The task force has also been garnering support from top agency executives. It sponsored a series of executive training sessions on such topics as imaging, the Internet, the year 2000 and business