Outsourcing: The Devil's in the Guarantees

Outsourcing: The Devil's in the Guarantees

by / November 30, 1999
In your story on San Diego County's ["Opting for Outsourcing" by Ciaran Ryan and Rhonda Wilson, September] decision to pursue outsourcing its IT system after Connecticut's three-year botched attempt ended in a complete failure, you credit or blame -- I couldn't tell which -- state employees' and their unions' opposition to the deal for its failure.

Well, if you had bothered to contact us, you could have learned the real reason that this deal died: It didn't make sense. The state's goal for its outsourcing scheme was a better, cheaper, more accountable system. Whacking state employees and their unions evidently was a lagniappe. EDS' goal was to make its standard 10-20 percent profit margin. Unfortunately, those goals were incompatible and mutually exclusive. When pressed, the administration could not articulate any tangible benefits, identify the savings (purportedly $50 million a year), explain away the poor track performance of EDS -- or, for that matter, every other vendor -- when working for the state, nor account for the administration's own incompetence in policing those contracts. We simply asked repeatedly for the administration to name any vendor that completed an IT project on time, on budget, that worked. They couldn't. Eventually, the state realized it had to press for more guarantees from the vendor than usual in order to convince a skeptical Legislature (even members of the governor's own party started to distance themselves from the idea) and public. Meeting that higher performance threshold meant either cutting EDS' profits or raising prices. Those options were unacceptable to the parties, so they pulled the plug on the project.

Rick Melita
Political Education Coordinator
Connecticut State
Employees Association

I couldn't agree with you more in your editorial "The Ultimate Devolution" (September). As a software engineer and, so called, Generation Xer, I find myself longing for the Jeffersonian style government that supplies only those minimal services that are impractical or impossible to handle on an individual level. Our current forms of government are outdated, our educational system lacking and our tax system burdensome. We must put the responsibility back on each individual to run his own affairs, where it belongs, and allow a free-market economy to provide the wonderful high standards of living that are possible for everyone.

Dan Worley
Software Engineer, McKesson HBOC Inc.
Eugene, Ore.

Virtual Universities
Great article by Tod Newcombe ("Virtual Universities: Are They for Real? August). Having recently completed two online economics courses, macroeconomics at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills and microeconomics at Rio Hondo College in Whittier, I
have to side with the argument that
virtual universities are revolutionizing education.

I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English 10 years ago from San Francisco State University by attending classes on campus. My "traditional" university experience afforded me a priceless education -- through the rigorous curriculum and through the interaction with a diverse student body and faculty.

My "virtual" university experience has provided me with an equally rigorous curriculum. An added perk of my virtual experience has been the time and energy I've saved by not having to commute, park and mingle after working and parenting all day. The convenience of taking courses online has enabled me to complete prerequisite courses necessary to begin my masters program in public policy and administration at California State University, Sacramento, this fall.

I think online courses are a great enhancement to traditional college

Carol Runge
Associate Governmental Program Analyst
California State Department of Health Services

All Aboard
Just a quick note to thank you for the article in July's ["All Aboard in Albany"] issue on Albany County's Shared Technology Training Program. We have received several inquiries regarding this innovative idea, which demonstrates the contribution Government Technology magazine makes as a provider of solutions for government IT professionals nationwide.

Thanks, again, for running this article.

Arthur M. Brown
Chief Information Officer
Albany County, N.Y.

Thanks for ["Finding a Place on the Map" by Bill McGarigle, July] and all the articles you've written on GIS in education. I do a lot of GIS training for educators at my USGS job, sometimes on my own and sometimes in conjunction with the ESRI K-12 team. We almost always hand out copies of your articles for the trainees to read.

I met the Shelly High School students you profiled at the Intermountain GIS conference in Idaho Falls in April and you're right -- they were excellent. They stole the show at the GIS conference!

Joseph J. Kerski
Geographer -- Outreach
U.S. Geological Survey

Sound Advice
I am a grandfather of 14 and wish to commend you and your efforts. My wife and I live in a small trailer park in Portland, Ore., where a known child molester is living. We know this as a fact because a Portland police officer brought a paper from the Police Department with his picture, name and the fact that he was a known child molester. He gave this to us and went on to our neighbors doing the same thing. The only problem is that it's been over a year now, and he still lives here and in that time, many people with children have moved in and they are unaware of the danger. We worry that something may happen.

I really think the innocent need protection and information such as yours.

Raymond Nichols
Portland, Ore.


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