March 8, 2006 By Shane Peterson
In addition to the six major IT initiatives already going strong in Houston, CIO Richard Lewis' hands were full dealing with the fallout from 2005's hurricane season.
Displaced New Orleans residents streamed to Texas to temporarily live in Houston. Lewis and his staff logged myriad hours working with the Red Cross to create online missing persons' registries and databases to match Katrina victims with Houston homes. Now the city is close to going live with a $10 million case-management system that will allow the Houston municipal court system to eliminate paper, Lewis said.
"I've assumed the acting municipal court chief clerk position in addition to my IT responsibilities," he said, adding that Houston's municipal court system will become one of the largest paperless class-C misdemeanor court systems in the country.
The city also is in the build-out phase of a $23 million ERP implementation, Lewis said, and financials and procurement are set to start operation on July 1 -- the beginning of the city's fiscal year.
"We're really under the gun on that," he said. "But we've got a great team on the field. That's going to be a big deal."
Lewis was surprised to learn, after a network assessment a few years ago, that 90 percent of the 300 routers and 800 switches in the city's network were beyond their manufacturers' support life. Houston is now in the second of a three-phase network upgrade to standardize routers and switches.
"Governments really don't do a good job of asset management," he said. "The IT environment in the city is highly centralized. I have control of about a third of the operating expense, but I control the entire capital budget. Sixty percent of the operating expense is in the Police Department and the Public Works Department.
"Those two departments have CTOs that report to me, as well as to their department directors, so I can try to control most of the big stuff without having to own it," Lewis continued. "But it does make for a challenging environment."
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