With a stroke of his pen, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter yesterday signed into law a sweeping bill that will completely overhaul how the state manages IT. The legislation, which received overwhelming bipartisan support from the state Legislature, transfers the duties and functions of the state's highly fragmented IT operations to the Governor's Office of Information Technology (OIT).

"Information Technology is the cornerstone of being able to provide the services we offer today," Ritter said. "Information technology is no longer confined to boxes and wires -- it's now a way to create new and innovative business solutions for the 21st century."

As an example of the waste and inefficiencies in the state's IT operations, Ritter pointed out that Colorado has 39 separate data centers and more than 1,600 servers. The state has also been plagued by a string of IT project failures that has damaged support for innovative IT projects in Colorado. "Centralization really helps us going forward and not falling into that trap again," he told Public CIO.

Mike Locatis, who was appointed by Ritter in 2007 as the state's first Cabinet-level CIO, said the legislation will deliver numerous benefits besides lower operating costs and less waste. "We see the legislation as a way to leverage our ability to attract and retain IT workers, and we will be able to leverage this with our business partners to get a more enterprise approach to licensing," he said.

Starting on July 1, Colorado's 1,100-1,200 IT workers, including agency CIOs, will report to OIT, although they will remain with their respective agencies.

Shortly after taking over as CIO, Locatis assembled a team of experts who drafted a consolidation plan that based much of its research on how other states had approached centralization. "That plan reflects our body of knowledge and input from other states," he said. The team interviewed CIOs and senior IT staff from Michigan, Delaware, Texas, North Dakota, Virginia and Missouri. Locatis described the input from other state CIOs as extremely valuable.

One lesson Locatis singled out from that input was the importance of communications with IT workers. OIT has met with all state IT employees, held town hall meetings to address concerns and has used newsletters to keep employees informed about the legislation.

Ritter also emphasized the importance of having the CIO as a Cabinet-level secretary as part of his centralization agenda. "When Mike discusses IT at Cabinet meetings, it's my CIO who is talking. No one has to interpret for him. I can imagine that if Mike had not been a member of my Cabinet, other members might have been more difficult to engage in the centralization." The governor added: "You need to have a person at your right hand side who is tech savvy and who gives a status to and respect toward the role of IT in state government."

 

Tod Newcombe, Editor  |  Editor, Public CIO