Dickie Howze’s charge as Louisiana state CIO will likely ring familiar to anyone in public-sector IT: maximize efficiencies and save public dollars by consolidating infrastructure from a federated model to a single Office of Technology Services. It was familiar to him too — he’d already done it at the state’s Department of Children and Family Services.
Expectations were high. And despite the magnitude and complexity of the effort, the consolidation saved the state $75 million in its first year.
Change management, he admits, was far and away his biggest challenge. The 16 different entities involved, spanning the highly complex Department of Health and Hospitals to administrative divisions like the office of the Inspector General, were understandably wary. “They conceived the consolidation as a loss of control,” Howze said.
At press time, Howze was poised to issue a multi-award RFP for staff augmentation to allow access to multiple private-sector partners — from small, local vendors to Fortune 500 companies — when an IT need arises. And when it does, he can reach out to awardees and secure bids without having to go through an additional procurement process. A similar unified hardware maintenance contract is also underway.
Howze intends to keep looking for those kinds of opportunities associated with the consolidation, a process without a hard end date. There’s always more to do.
Now more than a year and a half in, he credits smart planning as fundamental to the effort. “If we had not taken the six months that we spent to come up with a solid plan on how to execute this across the board, we would not have succeeded.”
Candidly, Howze admits that whether the consolidation is viewed as a success depends on who you ask — partner agencies are still getting used to the change. For his part, initial expectations were met or exceeded, and vital state IT systems have continued to operate without interruption. The lights, as they say, have stayed on. That sounds like success to us.
Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.