even if we have to change the technology, we will have put in place the processes, the concepts, the relationships, the basis for using Real ID to authenticate.

We may have to change our technology, but technology is not that hard to change. People and processes and relationships are hard to change.

It could look like this. You could have your NCID that has your name and password. For the next couple of years we could have VeriSign or Entrust as a second factor of authentication. But as we start issuing Real IDs that have machine-readable formats and all kinds of things with them, as the readers become more available, we just use that as a second factor, and you kill two birds with one stone. We believe that it is worth the investment now, even if we have to change the technology.

Can you discuss the benefits you've realized or anticipate realizing?

We certainly haven't met any ROI [return on investment] goal on this so far. It's still early in the process, and our investment still outweighs the kind of benefits that have been returned. But as I said, it doesn't take much calculating if you're reaching out to citizens and you think they may have two, three, four, five, six, seven different engagements with different agencies or services in North Carolina -- and you have 8 million citizens -- to see the difference between 8 million passwords and 40 million passwords.

We clearly believe there's an absolute cost benefit in that. Plus you're delivering better service. You're not even counting the benefit of better security, better passwords management, better arrangement, better termination processes, better initiation processes. Those are sort of obvious. They're soft. It's hard to measure them, but it doesn't take much to get to the point where you believe it will be worth a lot.

We still haven't talked about the convenience to the citizen. Government, it seems to me, tends to cut these folks up in awful little chunks. We don't treat them as individuals. Have you ever been to a company talking about a product focus versus a customer focus? Have you watched what the telephone companies have been doing the last five years? Everything was a separate bill. You were a different customer for each product they sold. Now they're trying to be really focused -- you're their customer, and through that mechanism, they give you lots of products.

The analogy is perfect. The government is the same way. We have lots of services and products that we need to, or we're required to, or we should be providing to our citizens. But we need to be customer focused, not product focused. This alone, along with the portal capability, could be the point where we begin to pull those things together.

That's the reason we think this is worth committing to, and the reason we're using both money and political capital to try and move forward -- even though it's a little difficult.

Chad Vander Veen  |  Editor, FutureStructure

Chad Vander Veen is the editor of FutureStructure.com