John Gillispie is knee-deep in Iowa's Enterprise Infrastructure and Personnel (EIP) Assessment of IT throughout the state's executive branch, which proposes an entirely new IT governance model within the state.

Iowa recently formed the Joint Council of CIOs, chaired by Gillispie, representing 10 executive branch agencies. One of the council's first actions was to aggregate state purchasing power for PCs and notebooks. The organization created a single standard for desktops and laptops, then put together a guaranteed buy of 1,500 desktops and 700 laptops.

As you're going through this, what's the most important role you and the ITE play in this process?

We're working on communications. We've had good communications, but we've got an interesting model we're using. We have those agencies that represent 95 percent of the IT spend on this group, the Joint Council of CIOs, and among that group, they all agree to do things in a standard way. Since they represent the biggest part of the spend, that's clearly a step in the right direction. From that, our hope is that the smaller agencies will jump on board and use those standards as well.

But just driving agreement between those 10 big spenders is a challenge. They all have different requirements put upon them by various entities -- everything from the feds down to the legislative process in Iowa -- that require them, in many ways, to behave and do things in different ways.

It sounds as if everybody is willing to do this, so that's not the problem. It's just making it happen that's the problem?

I'd say the willingness is there. But when you have a lot of sunk costs, sunk investments, that creates additional challenges for you, and when there's very little capital available to you to invest to create standardized platforms, that adds to the challenge of the situation.

The group is working very hard. We've had a big win in our purchasing of PCs, and we're now working on things like data centers, networking, VPN, an enterprise agreement with Microsoft and Oracle. With a lot of individual purchases made over the years, just getting contract dates lined up is a challenge.

Is it a chicken-or-the-egg argument? Which one has to happen first?

The way we've been doing it, and it's starting to work fairly well, is that we aggregate among all the JCIO members. 'OK, these are the things we're buying and these are the contracts we're under. So, vendor A, here is everything we're doing with you among these 10 organizations. We want to get our contract dates lined up. We want aggregate purchasing discounts.'

We found the vendors very willing to work with us. In the long term, it will be easier for them to do business with us. It won't take as much energy on their part, [versus having] to visit 43 different agencies.

Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor