Alabama Office of IT Is One Signature Away from Autonomy

After months of working under the umbrella of its Department of Finance parent agency through an interagency agreement, the Alabama Office of Information Technology is expected to soon be a freestanding agency.

by / May 2, 2017
Joanne Hale, CIO, Alabama David Kidd

For roughly the last five months, the Alabama Office of Information Technology (OIT) has been operating under a new structure that pulls it out from under its original footing within the Department of Finance. Now, legislation on Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk stands ready to make the structural shift a permanent part of state law.

The effort to create a freestanding IT agency is not one that happened overnight. In fact, it took officials within the Department of Finance and what was once known as the Information Services Division roughly four years of collaboration to achieve.

Through an executive order and interagency agreement, the OIT and Department of Finance have unofficially separated themselves, leaving the legislation, SB 219, before the governor as the last step to cementing the IT agency's status.

According to OIT Secretary Joanne Hale, both she and her finance counterparts were on board with what she calls a deliberate, two-phase “lift and shift.”

“The rationale was very simple," she said. "This allows OIT to focus on what is our core competency, and it allows the department of finance to focus on its core competency."

In the early days of the state’s shared services model, Hale contends the arrangement worked well throughout the federation of agencies, but the prevalence of technology in most aspects of government requires structural maturation to keep up with the growing demand.

Rather than wait for the legislative process to catch up with the need for the new office — which all parties knew could take considerable time — the governor signed the order and both agencies penned the interagency agreement allowing work to begin.

“As [technology] has grown and matured and become ever-present in every service and action that our employees and our agencies take, it’s important in how we serve the state has grown so much that it is necessary," Hale said. "It’s a necessary part of our IT maturation to pull it out from Finance.”

Unlike most pushes to reorganize and streamline state government, Hale explained that this effort doesn’t come with a host of new duties or authorities. Instead, it boils down to streamlining and maturing Alabama IT. Under the nearly codified plan, the Office of Information Technology would officially become an autonomous agency, tasked with the same mission as it had under the umbrella of the Department of Finance.

One perk of the adjustment, Hale explained, will come in the form of expanded procurement capabilities. Hale said that once signed, the new law would allow the agency to approach service and equipment procurements in a way not previously possible.

“The only change in authority with this legislation is we can now as a state participate in multi-vendor procurement awards and cooperative agreements [for] IT equipment and services,” she said. “We still have to adhere to the state’s competitive procurement laws, but we can do so using cooperative agreements and multivendor awards, which were limited prior to this legislation. That’s the only authority change.”

Once the law is signed, both agencies would need to sort staff and equipment allocations under the new structure. The law would take effect Oct. 1, 2017.

“I’m confident that we will be able to move forward with this,” Hale said.

Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.