Ken Theis, Michigan CIO, Looks to Cross Boundaries

State and local cooperation is crucial in economic downturn, Theis says.

by / January 26, 2009

Ken Theis became Michigan CIO in 2007, nine years after leaving General Motors to join state government. Michigan has been a national leader in IT consolidation and finished second in the Center for Digital Government's 2008 Digital States Survey.

What are some of your priorities?
One key initiative we have is around what we call "cross-boundary opportunities." How can we leverage some of the state's services and infrastructure to better support our counties, townships and municipalities? The second area that has been a major focus is what we call "transformation and innovation." For example, we are building a business portal that's requiring complete back-end integration of our legacy systems. So when an employer comes in, they can bring up their profile and all their information.

How are you doing that integration?
It's extremely difficult, and I don't want to give any impression that it's going to be done overnight. These are all legacy systems that have been built over a 10-, 20- or 30-year time period. We're looking at Web services, enterprise architecture and how to leverage enterprise service buses. It is a long, cumbersome process.

Describe what's happening with cross-boundary collaboration.
Here's a great example: Two of our state agencies wanted us to build an e-health application. Oakland County, Mich., had already built a state-of-the-art e-health application. So we brought that in-house; it's a single application that is now feeding the state of Michigan and Oakland County, and six county health departments have asked whether they could join the application.

Does the economic slowdown make state agencies and local governments more willing to work together?
It does. The locals are going through some tremendous budget pressures. You can bring people to the table who would have never considered it before, given the current situation they are facing.



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