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CIO Mark Bengel Discusses Tennessee's Consolidation Efforts

Mark Bengel talks about state's performance management and virtualization.

Photo: Mark Bengel, CIO, Tennessee/Photo courtesy of Mark Bengel

When Mark Bengel became Tennessee's CIO in 2007, agencies had amassed servers and built mini-data centers. Costs were rising quickly and customers were hostile to central IT. Bengel talked to Government Technology about his efforts to change the environment and help the state modernize its infrastructure and capabilities while embracing consolidation and a centralized infrastructure.  

How was the IT environment when you became CIO?

When I arrived [as CTO] in 2004, we were primarily a mainframe shop with limited ability to manage servers. We were reactive, had constant fire drills and morale wasn't great. Our relations with agencies were strained; we had dissatisfied customers; and no service level agreements (SLAs). We had no way to manage customer expectations, no baseline for organizational performance, and staff was more focused on siloed functions than outcomes.


How did you change it? 

We started by some restructuring, increasing capabilities through training, hiring key individuals with expertise in critical areas, and embracing enabling technologies like virtualization and centralized storage. We developed a performance management system using Remedy [a BMC Software IT Service Management suite]. A catalog described our services, costs and responsibilities. We created SLAs to go with every service and a means to measure our performance against those SLAs. We automatically measure and report our performance to staff, management and customers.


How did you meet and exceed SLAs? 

Performance management. We set our SLA target measures at 90 percent. I wanted our SLAs to be stringent so we couldn't hit 100 percent out of the gate. In 2008, we were at 81 percent. With a means to measure performance, we could focus on areas with deficits. By setting a baseline and challenging our staff, we drove SLA performance up to 98 percent in 2010.


How important has virtualization become? 

It reduced infrastructure costs and let us manage more servers without adding staff. It simplifies disaster recovery, eases maintenance and improves availability. If we're on a shared physical box, we can't let an agency have administrative privileges to that box because their actions may impact someone else. But we can give them administrative access to a virtual server with minimal risk and provide that resource at a fraction of the cost of a physical server.



Chad Vander Veen is a former contributing editor for Emergency Management magazine, and previously served as the editor of FutureStructure, and the associate editor of Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.