When Matt Miszewski became Wisconsin's CIO in March 2003, one of his first introductions to the Legislature was a meeting with Joint Finance Committee member Sen. Ted Kanavas, in which Kanavas told Miszewski that his budget would be slashed by $40 million.
Miszewski, appointed by a Democratic governor, had two options: recognize an "opportunity" to reorganize the state's use of IT, or resist and allow the Republican senator, whose party rules the Legislature, to make life miserable for him and the governor.
"I said, 'You obviously understood what you were getting into when you took this job,'" Kanavas said. "I said, 'Do you realize the opportunity you have in front of you?' He said, 'Absolutely.' He got it."
Thus began an uncommon bond between the liberal CIO and the conservative lawmaker, who put partisan politics aside to accomplish a common goal: help reduce the state's budget deficit by implementing an enterprise approach to IT. It's a novel approach that the two, and others, say can and should be done more often around the country.
"CIOs should be involved in planning for state IT and need to provide information to legislators to support state IT planning and development," said Maryann Trauger, information technology coordinator of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Aldona Valicenti, who recently retired as CIO of Kentucky, said it's crucial for a CIO to have the support of legislators. "The partnership that Matt has in Wisconsin is a very good one," said Valicenti. "It's very important to have legislative support for the CIO agenda, and probably most important to have that support for funding and legislation."
Miszewski understood the governor needed to trim $3.2 billion from the state budget, and one of the best places to cut was from the fat-laden IT budget. He understood Wisconsin's IT procurement practices were shortsighted and costly, but most importantly, he realized changing the situation demanded collaboration and a unique partnership.
"That's an understatement," Miszewski said of the unusual alliance. "I was appointed by a liberal Democratic governor and [Kavanas] is, by all estimations, a conservative Republican. I get a lot of funny looks. But I think the reason our relationship works so well is because that doesn't matter to either of us. We joke a lot about politics, but when we work it's pretty seriously about technology."
Kanavas agreed -- sort of.
"We disagree on almost all the policy we go through," he said. "He's a liberal Democrat. I think he was hit in the head as a child. But we don't talk about it, because whenever we talk about it, I destroy him in debate and he loses his confidence."
Joking aside, the two are committed to developing an enterprise-wide IT plan for the state and reforming a culture of inertia that can derail progress in government. Kanavas talked about the importance of defining each agency's core mission, and developing metrics for that agency and a culture of solving problems and moving forward.
"In other words, if the agency's job is to provide health and human services, how fast are caseloads being processed, and what are the kinds of things you're trying to do?" Kanavas said. "To accomplish those things, you've got to have systems that are going to help you create that kind of culture. That's what's desperately missing around the country."
One of the first orders of business in Wisconsin was to create the Enterprise Technology Division. As the division's administrator, Miszewski's job is to create a horizontal, enterprise-wide approach to IT and raze information silos.
More specifically it means consolidation of duplicate services; seat licensing instead of new IT purchasing; performance-based budgeting; and enterprise-wide accounting, human resources, e-procurement, GIS and business intelligence data systems. It also means learning a lesson from