well as down the organization. We're really trying to make the most of opportunities.
GT: On Oct. 1, your IT department in Fort Worth will operate as a business unit, without any pre-allocated funds. By shifting to this business model of operation, how has it improved the way you serve your city's IT needs?
Di Paolo: The model we are employing here is that this department operates all the shared infrastructure on behalf of the city. Departments are not free to go off and build different "shared" infrastructure. But departments are certainly free to procure other optional services. Really, what we are trying to do is become very good at the core businesses we need to be performing. We are perfectly prepared to outsource functions that are not core business functions. In that sense, we loosely define that as core business functions where we can add value, and where we can't, someone else can do that job.
Someone else may not be able to do that less expensively, but we want to keep our focus on those core things that we need to do in order to succeed. We outsource those things that are more mechanical in nature.
It's forcing us to become very good at what we do and to stop doing those things we're not good at.
GT: How does the city benefit from this model?
Di Paolo: Well, a couple things. First of all, we've had cost accountants go through and do activity-based cost studies, so we know what it costs to do everything that we do. We can compare that to the marketplace and know whether we are competitive or not, so it provides competitive measures. It isn't just some service delivery at an unknown cost; it's a choice for the customer as to whether to pay for it or not.
By focusing on the key businesses and the cross-business-unit functions, which is the view we can provide, we can really help departments work together better. We will see departments wanting to do similar things for different reasons. [Our job is to ask:] Can't that all be bundled together? For example, it would be silly to see four different kiosks for four different departments sitting at the same mall. Yet what we propose is not a central-planning project. The IT department doesn't say, "We're going to do kiosks. What kind of things would you do with a kiosk if you had one?"
Our approach is the opposite: "You seem to have an application that requires a kiosk. We note that this and the other departments also have similar applications. Can we all sit down together and develop a partnership here where we can all succeed on a global project?"
GT: A recent ICMA/PTI survey found that 71 percent of cities surveyed did not have a long-range IT plan. Why aren't local governments doing a better job of planning their IT needs?
Di Paolo: My personal opinion and observation is that local government in general tends to be very reactive and not generally active in getting out in front; that's across the board. It doesn't just deal with technology. That's my perception of local governments for the last decade.
We tend to be more reactive, which works against planning. Planning takes a lot of time and effort, a lot of work. Customer departments have to do a lot of thinking about what are the key things they want to accomplish. So departments have to be thinking ahead.
You can't have a long-range technology plan without a business plan to drive it. That doesn't mean we haven't a master city plan as much as departmental business plans to move ahead, or at least some long-range vision of where they want to go, so we can