Is a New N.C. IT Agency a Wise Investment?

The state's new IT agency would have broad authority to avoid redundancy, reject waste and enforce consistent quality standards.

by / December 22, 2014
CIO Chris Estes, North Carolina David Kidd/e.Republic

State Chief Information Officer Chris Estes is calling for a new information technology agency -- an  idea that is expected to reduce the state’s technology costs by aggregating buying power and using IT resources more efficiently.

"In our restructuring report to the General Assembly, Deloitte estimated that states that move to a unified model can expect to save 10 percent to 20 percent of their initial operating budget over five years," said Stephanie Hawco, director of Public Affairs for the state's Office of Information Technology Services, in an email to Government Technology.

State Budget Director Lee Roberts has lent support to Estes' plan to convert his office into a cabinet-level position. It would have broad authority to avoid redundancy, reject waste and enforce consistent quality standards. Ideally, this would prevent boondoggles.

Estes actually made two presentations to the General Assembly during the week of Dec. 15 – one about restructuring, and one about an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, a separate initiative that has an estimated price tag of $301 million.

Implementing such a system can improve effectiveness and efficiency of government operations in many ways, according to an executive summary from the state: increasing the consistency and accuracy of information shared by agencies, automating and streamlining many important daily tasks that allows staff to focus on higher-value activities, and improving responsiveness to shifts in the market, emerging strategies and changing customer demands.

Legislators may be wary of such a high-priced investment after recent software glitches, delays and cost overruns plagued state operations, including the MILES vehicle inspection database, the NCFAST system for food stamps, the PowerSchool education records database and the Department of Revenue's TIMS software.

As for a new IT agency, however, Retiring Rep. Joe Tolson, a Tarboro Democrat who has long been one of the General Assembly's IT leaders, said he thinks this could be a wise investment. "You will see the savings," he said, "because you will get agencies talking to each other and not building their own system to do the same thing another system is already doing."

This story includes data from The Fayetteville Observer, which included inaccuracies. This story has corrected those mistakes.