January 5, 2005 By Wayne Hanson
Harris County CIO Steve Jennings
In 2000, Harris County, Texas, began a 10-year thrust to build true enterprise governance in the nation's third largest county, which covers 1,744 square miles, and serves more than three million people. County CIO Steve Jennings -- who is responsible for the county's data processing, communications and networking, as well as a regional public-safety communications system that serves 240 federal, state and local government agencies -- spoke today on the enterprise view to a Center for Digital Government teleconference.
The approach, said Jennings, was to enable officials to use evolving technology and work together on an enterprise approach toward specific objectives. The forum would look at such things as customer service, organizational structure and a new method of budgeting to cost out enterprise systems. It would look with new eyes at "what services you provide, and how you provide them." An E-Business Results Team (EBRT) would look at the cost of providing a service, and its effectiveness and value to the customer. The County Commission approved the plan and the wheels began turning.
The county IT establishment had many challenges and complexities to deal with. It handles public-safety communications for nine counties, serves as an ISP, telecommunications company, training and education center, support center for internal and external customers, and an application solutions and business continuity provider, among others.
Jennings said that in most county IT operations 70 percent of the budget is running existing capability with only 30 percent for new development. "What we want from an enterprise approach," he explained, "is to reduce redundancy and islands of technology, reach an additional 15 percent new capabilities, and decrease our existing maintenance to the 55 percent range."
"Enterprise Core" Areas
The 20-10 Advisory Board, said Jennings, is a clearinghouse for seven major areas defined as the "enterprise core." They are:
"We are very pleased in our approach," said Jennings. "Without 2010 in place, we would have no clear vision of directing IT investment. This is our approach to get consensus building to push our costing, and our acquisition on to an enterprise approach."
Responding to questions that followed, Jennings said that he and his staff have an open door policy for vendors, but that he is looking for enterprise solutions rather than products. He mentioned specifically enterprise document management and GIS.
Members of the Center for Digital Government can access the complete transcript online. For more information, contact Leesa Kelly at 916.932.1406.
You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to