Brian Rawson Steps Down as Texas CTO

Karen Robinson, director of administration and technology for the Office of the Governor, will serve as interim director.

by / October 1, 2009

After leading Texas' massive IT consolidation and outsourcing initiative for nearly three years, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Brian Rawson resigned Wednesday, Sept. 30, as executive director of the state's Department of Information Resources (DIR).

Rawson will move to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and serve as its director of statewide data initiatives, according to a statement released by the DIR. Karen Robinson, director of administration and technology for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was named interim state CTO. Rawson will remain with the DIR for several weeks to help with the transition, the agency said.

The statement gave no reason for Rawson's resignation, and a call to the Texas DIR wasn't returned late Wednesday afternoon.

Critical Audit

An Aug. 31 state auditor's report criticized the DIR for failing to adequately oversee the $863 million data center consolidation. According to the Austin-American Statesman, deficiencies included not verifying outsourcing contractor IBM's performance data.

Texas hired IBM in 2007 to provide data center and disaster recovery services for 27 state agencies. The seven-year, $863 million deal calls for replacing 31 independent state data centers with two IBM-operated facilities.

The newspaper reported that in order to have all agencies' servers working from the consolidated data center by December 2009, more than 600 servers should have been moved to the facility in the first half of the year. But the Statesman reported that only 75 of them had made the transition by July.

Charles Bacarisse, who in September was appointed chairman of the state board that oversees the DIR, thanked Rawson for his service and expressed optimism that Rawson's replacement would complete the wide-ranging state consolidation initiative.

"While the data consolidation is a long way from completion, on behalf of the Board I thank [Rawson] for his efforts," said Bacarisse, in the DIR statement.

"Karen has a strong reputation in the technology field but more importantly as a leader who builds strong teams that successfully complete complex tasks," he added. "I am confident she is the right leader for the agency during this transition."

Uneven Performance?

Perry ordered a temporary stop to consolidation efforts last year because of concerns about data backup. In a correspondence to Rawson sent Oct. 28, 2008, the governor directed the DIR to stop all consolidation, pending a review.

At the time, Perry said he was particularly concerned about IBM's "apparent failure" to back up data for more than 20 state agencies. IBM and the DIR reported three weeks later that they had made progress on a plan to improve backup and recovery services.

More recently, the DIR pointed to an independent review that said the consolidation and privatization efforts were delivering savings. The review, conducted by accounting firm Grant Thornton and released by the DIR in June, said the initiative had saved $11 million over the past two years.

Strong Replacement

John Miri, former director of E-Government and Web Services for Texas and now a senior fellow at e.Republic's Center for Digital Government, said Robinson has done "outstanding work" for Perry.

"Coming from the Governor's Office, Karen's appointment as interim executive director sends a strong message that Texas is committed to making this program work," Miri said. "Karen is an innovator who knows her stuff. Many of the staff she mentored have gone on to win awards, and she pulled off the first webcast of a gubernatorial inauguration during the worst ice storm in 50 years."

Miri added that Rawson will be a valuable addition in his new post.

"Brian Rawson is a dedicated public servant who will do great work in a key role at the Texas Education Agency," he said. "The initiative he will be leading will

have a major impact on our public schools, which has always been a passion for Brian. DIR stole Brian away from TEA a few years ago, and I know people in their leadership are very happy to have him back."

Outsourcing Stumbles

Texas isn't the only state to experience slow-going progress on big IT outsourcing projects. The Virginia Information Technologies Agency came under fire this summer because of cost overruns and subpar performance associated with its $2.4 billion, 10-year contract with Northrop Grumman for management and consolidation of the state's IT services.

Virginia CIO Lem Stewart was replaced in June after he attempted to withhold payment to Northrop Grumman. The problems prompted Gov. Tim Kaine to ask the state General Assembly to put the CIO under his control. In August, Stewart was succeeded by George Coulter, a veteran private-sector software executive.

Matt Williams Associate Editor
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