Larry Olson -- CIO of Pennsylvania from 1995-1999 under then-Governor Tom Ridge -- has returned to his home state of Texas, and last year became the state's executive director of the Department of Information Resources (DIR) and state Chief Technology Officer, succeeding Carolyn Purcell who resigned after almost a decade on the job. Olson discussed DIR's direction and plans with Government Technology.
Olson said that he has his attention on several areas, including project delivery. The Legislature recently held a series of hearings on contracting and negotiation procedures. The Texas Project Delivery Framework now ranges from project justification to benefits realization. Projects are overseen by non-IT executives, and both the agency head and the project executive must sign off on all projects and answer the question: were the projected benefits realized?
Enterprise and Cooperation
Olson is also looking at a more cost-effective approach to a true statewide infrastructure, and is working on data center consolidations and wide-area networks. "We have a contract that covers outsourcing of data centers with Northrop Grumman," he said, "but there are some data centers that are not in it." And a number of major agencies are assessing their areas to help consolidate resources.
The state is preparing an RFI on enterprise solutions for messaging and collaboration, and a solicitation for procurement that is not enterprise-wide, but will include thousands of seats in Health and Human Services, Department of Information Resources, Criminal Justice and a couple other large agencies. "DIR handles all the commodity contracts for software, hardware and services for all public entities in Texas," said Olson. "Some 3,600 entities can buy from us, including universities, K-12 local governments, etc." Olson also said the Capital Complex telecommunications switches will be replaced soon to allow voice over IP.
For hardware, the state once relied on the Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA), but Olson says the state can do better through its own volume purchasing. PCs were generally standardized within agencies, said Olson, but he's been developing a statewide standard that will save 28 percent off the WSCA price. "Now we are negotiating all our own contracts," he said. "Negotiating new technology -- with standard configurations -- with a new price point on a 90-day basis for PCs, notebooks, servers and printers."
Olson said he invited the CIOs from the eight largest cities and counties to meet at the upcoming Government Technology Conference and look at ways to build cooperation, in best practices, contracts, RFPs and more. "We all have the same issues and problems," he said. DIR will also operate a cyber cafe at the conference to showcase the new standardized PCs and notebooks.
"When I came on board," said Olson, "there were seven divisions in the agency, which we reorganized to four divisions." IT security is a separate agency for the first time. Olson said that Bill Perez -- a retired FBI cybercrime expert -- came back into public service as the DIR's security director.
"Our message to potential partners," said Olson, "is that we are looking at new ideas, and if we see a way to bring value, we are open to listening. We will reduce government cost whether we have a budget problem or not. We will support effective technology contracting and execution." Innovative technology use and consolidation is being promoted actively within agencies. "I have a great staff and we are getting really great cooperation with cities, counties, schools, the Legislature and the Governor's Office. There is no way we could do this by ourselves."