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Ken Theis: Michigan CIO Fights Tight Budget With Shared Services

Ken Theis: Michigan CIO Fights Tight Budget With Shared Services

In the world of government IT, few states have performed as consistently -- and through as much hardship -- as Michigan. Tough budgets may be new for some CIOs, as the full force of the economic downturn hits state and local coffers. But managing through adversity is old hat for Ken Theis, CIO of Michigan. The state has seen more than its share of economic trouble in recent years. Despite these difficulties -- or more accurately, because of them -- Michigan has been a leader in IT consolidation and resource sharing.

Theis, who left General Motors 11 years ago to join state government, plays a central role in Michigan's success. He served as senior deputy to CIO Teri Takai while the state worked though a wrenching transition to centralized IT. Then Theis took over Michigan's CIO post in 2007 when Takai accepted the top IT job in California.

Throughout this time, Michigan remained a model of IT excellence. Michigan finished first in the Center for Digital Government's 2004 and 2006 Digital States surveys. The state nearly topped the survey again in 2008, finishing second to Utah.

In an interview late last year, Theis pegged the savings generated by Michigan's consolidation efforts at about $100 million over the past six years. With much of the internal consolidation accomplished, he's now pushing the concept across government boundaries. As an example, Theis points to an e-health application developed by Oakland County, Mich., that was adopted by the state. "It's a single application that is now feeding Michigan and Oakland County, and we've got six county health departments that have asked to join the application," he said.

Theis, who subscribes to the notion that a budget crisis is a terrible thing to waste, continues to use scarce funding as a catalyst for change. And Michigan residents are better off thanks to his efforts.

Watch Video: Michigan CIO Ken Theis and California CIO Teri Takai discuss IT strategy in their states.