August 4, 2008 By David Raths
Michael Locatis is preparing for the challenge of a lifetime -- consolidating Colorado's IT operations.
After a year of preparation and outreach to stakeholders, he thinks he's got it all covered. Locatis has plenty of experience on his side, having led the city and county of Denver through a consolidation as its CIO. The three-year effort to unite 20 disparate IT departments into a single citywide Technology Services Division won a Public Technology Institute technology solution award. "I think we were able to improve delivery of constituent services and re-engineer business processes," he said.
The fresh perspective of a private-sector approach helped him make those changes, he believes. "Of course, now that I've been in the public sector for four and a half years, I'll probably be considered a public-sector guy," said Locatis.
In fact, the 49-year-old's experience with consolidation reaches back to his days in the commercial sector. A longtime executive of Time Warner Cable, he said the company was growing so fast through mergers and acquisitions that it was a portfolio of 32 cable companies under one umbrella. As senior director of enterprise technology strategy, Locatis led the standardization of customer service delivery systems.
Of course, he realizes that consolidating state IT services may present a bigger challenge than Time Warner or Denver. "[Colorado] had a history of problems with failed and underperforming projects," he said. "It was recognized that basic things were broken and that other states were recognizing tremendous benefits from consolidation."
As in other states that have consolidated, each agency in the executive branch was making its own siloed technology decisions. "There was no enterprise architecture or procurement leverage," he said. An independent study found that the state has 40 data centers, when it probably should have two or three. "There's been no sense of shared services," Locatis said.
He believes the gradual four-phase shift to a centralized IT organization will alleviate many of these problems. Among his first moves were hiring an enterprise architecture team leader and the development of new governance structures. "We can do a much better job of vendor selection, rolling out large IT projects and prioritizing them," he said.
Having led Denver's consolidation, Locatis learned that political and employee-relationship issues must be addressed head-on. Hired in January 2007, Locatis agreed with Gov. Bill Ritter to spend time studying the state's challenges and building bipartisan support for consolidation before approaching the Legislature for approval in 2008. "We studied what other states have done and hired independent groups to do assessments," he said.
His team created a 250-page change-management plan to go along with the legislation for creating the consolidated IT organization, which was working its way through the Legislature in spring 2008. "It maps out the operational consequences and possible pitfalls," Locatis said. His management team held town hall-style meetings to get input from the state's 1,100 IT employees and put hundreds of pages of consolidation-related documents on its Web site. "We're trying to be as transparent as possible," he said, "and I think it will pay off."
Although he may be an agent of change, Locatis gives much of the credit to the governor for the state's willingness to innovate. "In a state that has not seen such change in decades, you need the executive support of someone like Gov. Ritter," he said. "If I didn't have that, I wouldn't be able to move on this so quickly, or perhaps at all."
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