As recently as a few weeks ago, a proposed consolidation and modernization of Oklahoma’s IT systems was in doubt.

Despite backing from Gov. Mary Fallin, who said the state’s technology systems were “outdated eight-track bureaucracies in an iPod world,” some lawmakers were skeptical the effort would result in cost savings and efficiencies. The legislation, House Bill 1304, was stalled as the legislative session wound down.

Alex Pettit, Oklahoma’s state CIO, said Wednesday he feared that there was no better than a 50-50 chance the consolidation would move forward.

But he and the governor ultimately got their wish Tuesday, May 24, when Fallin announced she signed the legislation. The bill centralizes policymaking, procurement and decision-making into the CIO’s office in an attempt to streamline the state’s hardware, software and storage.

Pettit conceded that Oklahoma has a long journey ahead to meet the consolidation’s aims. But the legislation was a necessary first step. Now all agencies are mandated to participate, which Pettit said is important for the consolidation to be successful. “Either we’re all in, or nobody is in,” he said.

First up likely will be e-mail and mainframe consolidation, Pettit said. The state will be teaming with Microsoft to merge 129 e-mail servers scattered across state agencies. It remains to be seen if the state will take advantage of cloud-based services for e-mail, he said. The state currently has seven mainframes, and needs the computing power of only one of them.

The state released a feasibility study in April that found redundancy across the state enterprise, including 76 financial systems, 22 unique time and attendance systems, 17 different imaging systems, 48 reporting and analytics applications and 30 data center locations. The report estimated that consolidation and modernization could significantly reduce the state’s $233 million in annual IT spending.

Much work remains to be done, though, to consolidate those systems. The state is continuing to inventory agencies’ IT assets and has to hammer out the initiative’s governance, which will probably include a steering committee, Pettit said. The consolidation will move forward agency by agency, he said, by first optimizing servers and e-mail. The goal is to make these improvements with existing resources and without extra funding.

Pettit said it’s hard to predict where the state will be a year from now, but he said Fallin and the legislature’s leadership should be credited for making IT transformation a top priority.

Pettit concedes that the clock has started. After being retained from the previous administration, he’s now expected to bring results.

Matt Williams Matt Williams  |  Contributing Writer

Matt Williams was previously the news editor of Govtech.com, and is now a contributor to Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.