April 20, 2005 By Wayne Hanson
When Gov. Blunt asked him to take on the CIO position, said Ross, he explained that the state contained a conglomeration of architectures resulting from years of independent decision making by 16 cabinet agencies. Blunt campaigned on IT consolidation, said Ross, and as of July 1, that will happen, with 14 of the 16 cabinet agencies' IT budget, staff, and equipment under Ross' direction in the new Information Technology Services Division.
Formerly, the CIO reported to the governor and was responsible for policy changes and standards implementation, and the Director of Information Services ran the State Data Center, telecommunications, e-mail system, etc. Blunt consolidated the two positions, and Ross was asked to take down the stovepipes, and leverage the technology investment. "I've been here three months," said Ross, "and I still don't have a handle on how much the state spends on technology, because it is so deeply embedded in every agency. It's in travel, training, cars and lots of things."
Ross said consolidation is a huge change with plenty of difficulties, but also explained that a number of opportunities have arisen to help the process along, not the least of which is that he will inherit a staff of 1,200. In addition, Ross learned that the Highway Department had six strands if dark fiber along all the state's interstate highways, and agreed to share that resource. Just two weeks prior to that, said Ross, he had testified to a $35 million general revenue appropriation pass-through fund just to pay phone bills for state employees, so the fiber presented a huge opportunity.
In addition, Ross was contacted by the state's Electric Cooperatives Association -- which had been laying fiber in rural areas -- who wanted to partner with the state. "That's huge," said Ross, "All of a sudden the fiber map starts to look like the state highway map." And then Homeland Security money came through, enabling some 20-50 satellite ground stations for hard-to-reach areas.
Over the years, each of the 16 cabinet agencies built their own networks, and contracted separately for telephones, T-1 lines, etc. Now, Ross is beginning a network consolidation initiative. Security, e-mail, and more are under scrutiny, with Ross looking for the best prices on 50,000 seats. He said that his staff doesn't have experience in migrating to a consolidated e-mail system, so he'll be looking for assistance. He said a "Pillars of Government" approach will look over any projected implementation to see who needs access to the information so that architectural standards will allow the sharing of information.
Ross said the State Data Center would be evaluated to ensure that it was operating as efficiently as possible. And the fiber networks will provide additional opportunities to partner with municipal and county governments who have also been hit with budget reductions.
The state will attempt to move to a three-year PC replacement cycle, and Ross is looking at total cost of ownership to see if some leasing arrangement or seat management arrangement might be more cost effective.
The state will also issue an IT strategic plan soon, and Ross asked for vendors to read it to see what they can offer to support it, saying if it wasn't in the strategic plan, he didn't want to waste anybody's time discussing it. Ross also invited vendors to the June 16 Digital Government Summit in Jefferson City.
You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to