The budget agreement that ended Minnesota’s nearly three-week government shutdown resulted in legislation that will consolidate the state’s IT services and staff.

The new legislation will require all IT staff from Minnesota’s 70-plus agencies to move to the state’s Office of Enterprise Technology (OET) — the state’s central IT organization, said Cathy de Moll, the OET’s director of planning, communications and marketing. Once the consolidation is complete, the OET will have 1,800 employees — an increase from its current 350-person headcount.

Currently the OET is responsible for overseeing purchasing and contracting within the various state agencies, reporting to the Legislature, and provisioning primary infrastructure services, such as the state’s enterprise e-mail system. With the consolidation, the OET will expand its oversight role.

“We will be doing not only infrastructure and standardizing infrastructure, but then we’ll be overseeing and managing projects, and all IT expenditures and all IT staffing eventually,” de Moll said. 

As part of the consolidation, state agency CIOs will be expected to move to the OET within the next 30 days, de Moll said. The details of that reporting structure are still being worked on. All agency IT staff in the state government is expected to report to the OET by October, she said.

As of Tuesday, July 26, the OET was in just its third day of the consolidation process; in the early stages, the OET plans to focus on the finances and HR components of the staff transfers.

How will the consolidation impact the state? According to de Moll, cost savings is not the primary goal. Rather, the aim is to create more efficiencies and become more standardized across the state government. The consolidation will likely build upon the enterprise services agreement Minnesota agreed to last fall with Microsoft, which includes cloud-based productivity software.

Minnesota’s government shutdown began July 1 due to a budget impasse. On July 20, Gov. Mark Dayton ended the dispute by signing a two-year budget that trimmed spending to bridge a $5 billion budget deficit.

Minnesota’s leaders see technology as being vital for the state government’s transformation.

“What the governor and Legislature see is an opportunity to reform IT in a way that makes it more efficient and effective. Therefore, the ultimate goal is that IT would become a foundation for a lot of the other reform that they would like to see happen,” de Moll said.

The OET plans to look at other states as well as private industry for ideas on how to properly handle the consolidation, she said.

As part of Minnesota’s government shutdown, the OET had to furlough 75 percent of its staff, leaving the agency only with a “skeleton” work force to handle critical services such as its network, telecommunications and e-mail.

The OET didn’t suffer a major backlog of work as a result of the shutdown, de Moll said, and has made a smooth transition back to its normal routine.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.