While the warehouse component is new, Leidner estimates the city has already spent at least $50 million on GIS and will spend another $50 million when all is said and done. But the payoff has been tremendous, when you look at how the police are using GIS to analyze crime patterns. The results have been one of the most significant drops in crime ever seen by any city in decades, and the application has been internationally recognized for its effectiveness. Other applications include everything from emergency management to restaurant inspections.

Modest Investment, Major Payback

Compared to New York City, Iowa's data warehouse project is definitely small change. Costing less than $3 million, CIO Varn characterized it as a mid-sized IT project. Built by Bull with NCR as its partner, the warehouse project has succeeded in sharing components -- hardware, storage, software query tools, application development -- among the first generation of agencies using it.

So far, the results have been impressive. For example, the Department of Corrections was able to analyze the impact of policy changes on the penalty phase to certain misdemeanors and other violations. The Department of Criminal and Juvenile Planning was able to reduce its analytical query costs from $215,000 to just $2,690. The Department of Revenue and Finance used the warehouse to identify noncompliant taxpayers for audits and ended up increasing tax revenue by $3.5 million in less than one year.

Not surprisingly, a fair number of other agencies are lining up to become part of the centralized warehouse. "It's very expandable the way it's structured," said Varn. In fact, Varn is looking to offer the state's warehouse infrastructure as a platform for not just agency use, but other states as well. "There's an opportunity for Iowa to play the role of service provider. Our price point is less than what private-sector data warehouse providers can offer," he added.

Yet Iowa, like other states, is still in the first phase of enterprise warehouse building. The components are in place, but the data standards aren't up to snuff yet. "We're trying to get to the point where we can structure the data environment and have common files in all agencies for such things as customer and place. That's going to take a little longer to accomplish," said Varn.

Until that happens, Iowa will have to settle for the smaller, but still noticeably rewarding benefits from its warehouse. But once the state develops a single data structure for the most common data elements, then it can begin to do what other states are still talking about. Namely, focus policy and resources on the citizen as customer, rather than on government programs. "Once you can do that you can begin to look at the citizen in several different ways: spatially from a GIS environment, transactionally from a service delivery perspective or from the multi-layer, city, county, school district, state and federal perspective," said Varn. "When you can relate data from different programs, then you give yourself a better ability to deliver services."