“At budget time every year, I’ll take a look at all of our systems,” said Las Vegas CIO Joe Marcella, “as well as every time we bring up a new system, I try to figure out whether I’m going to build it, buy it, rent it or share it.” For Marcella, the decision to share systems has been working.
Several jurisdictions — Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Clark County — built a government cloud for a multijurisdictional business licensing system and are looking at other potential applications. The collaborative agreement allows for additional participants and proportional payments for buy-in. “Sharing has become very very interesting,” said Marcella.
He added that shared systems are going to have to become more pervasive in government. If jurisdictions don’t start these projects and initiatives on their own, they are going to be mandated to do so — which was the case for these Nevada local governments.
The principal partners had to develop an agreement to build the system, and each had to maintain individual proprietary systems. “We all have separate business licensing systems, but they are all now coordinated and linked for data elements that are necessary for the multijurisdictional licenses. That means that if someone is a contractor and wants to go to the county and that’s their principal residence, they can still do business in North Las Vegas, Las Vegas and Henderson, simply by going to the county and signing up for it.”
Wireless Pooling Saves Texas County $95,000 per Year
Bexar County has moved from separate wireless accounts with individual plans to one main wireless pooled account. Pooling is the process of purchasing a monthly set of minutes per unit and sharing those minutes across county departments, resulting in a reduced net cost per minute. The county analyzed this option and discovered that it was less expensive to do than an employee allowance plan.
The pooled county account includes 404 cellphones with 100 pool minutes/100 free texts ($23.80 per month) and 334 smartphones with 300 pool minutes/unlimited data and text ($51.74 per month). Both have 5,000 night and weekend minutes and unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes. By pooling the wireless minutes countywide, we leverage spending and reduce costs. The minutes are reviewed monthly to assure we are optimizing the amount of minutes, adjusting for additional savings.
The combining of the accounts — from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint — into pooling also standardized the wireless plans and monthly billing. Formerly there were separate plans for high-end users versus lower plans for others, causing confusion on auditing, budgeting and payment processing. It also improves the inventory of the phones and the processing of chargebacks and payments. We are currently incurring a savings of $85,000 for the year.
At this time we are working with our wireless vendor to set up the county’s two aircard accounts into one and pool them. Out of 684 individual aircard plans, 110 of those would be reduced from the higher-cost unlimited plan to the $37.99 per month plan, sharing 5 GB of data each. This is more than enough and would cover those high-end users and save on overages. We are projecting to have a savings of $10,000 for the year. Thus, through pooling we will save $85,000 for the cellphones plus another $10,000 for the aircards.
— Catherine Maras, CIO of Bexar County, Texas
Some of the groundwork for the business license application was laid several years ago. Las Vegas, the Metropolitan Police Department, Clark County and the state of Nevada all participated in a project called Nevada Shared Information Technology Services (NSITS). Then-Gov. Jim Gibbons said NSITS provided “a governance model for the operation of a collaborative, cross-jurisdictional information technology infrastructure.”
Marcella also hosts all of southern Nevada’s animal shelter system on the Las Vegas government cloud. “I own the software, I license use to the other jurisdictions, and everybody signs up to use it. I host it, and it’s a nonprofit that runs the center. So you can see all the components there, which is typically difficult to do contractually into an operating agreement, and also host it in a single site.”
He also hosts MyNevada, a Web portal for questions on obtaining services that provides aggregate data from multiple jurisdictions.
Two Takes on Outsourcing
Outsourcing all or part of a jurisdiction’s IT operations has been an option for some time now, and San Diego County has been doing it successfully since 1999. The outsourcing contract is credited by the county CIO as staving off recession-induced budget cuts to IT, as it is a contracted relationship that can’t be touched.
Minneapolis has a long outsourcing track record as well, but according to the city’s CIO, the contractual relationship there shifted budget cuts to a dwindling city IT organization, and more cuts are pending. Here’s a closer look at the impact of large-scale outsourcing in both jurisdictions.
San Diego County
San Diego County is the poster child for IT outsourcing. Since 1999, the county has successfully transitioned through three vendor regimes, picking up lessons learned along the way. In 1999, the county first contracted with CSC. In 2005, the county partnered with Northrop Grumman, and that transitioned to the third contract with Hewlett-Packard in May 2011.
Through all those transitions, said former CIO Harold Tuck, the county improved its contracting, its ability to write terms and conditions, and its stability. “Some aspects of the contract certainly didn’t work in the beginning,” Tuck said. “We had a fair number of contractual disputes when I walked in on April 1, 2008. We had millions of dollars in dispute. We were disputing service delivery, projects not being on time, being over budget, we had unmet service-level agreements and penalties imposed.” And there was some confusion among staff as to areas of responsibility. Now, there are only a few thousand dollars in dispute, and Tuck reorganized and created self-directed teams that raised morale and helped build a better working relationship with Northrop Grumman that carried over to the most recent arrangement with Hewlett-Packard.