San Diego County Nears Completion of 7-Year Outsourcing Contract, Prepares For Next Steps

CIO Michael Moore participates in Center for Digital Government teleconference

by / February 11, 2005
Back in Sept. 1999 Government Technology covered the impending outsourcing of San Diego County's IT functions. Now, six years later -- as the outsourcing agreement nears the end of its seven-year contract, the Center for Digital Government hosted a teleconference with San Diego County's CIO Michael Moore.

Moore, CIO since November 2003, is responsible for oversight of the county's information technology, including strategic planning, contract oversight and execution, and operational support for over 18,000 county employees at more than 200 sites. He serves on the board of directors for the California County Information Directors Association, as is a member of the Government Technology Conference Advisory Board.

The Problem
The county has about 3 million residents, 18,000 employees and $4 billion in revenues per year. Before outsourcing, the county's IT infrastructure was outdated, and the projected cost of upgrades would cost some $100 million. The county's 50-odd departments each had their own IT staff, systems didn't integrate and there was no good communication mechanism. The county thought that outsourcing might be a solution, but a few months earlier, Connecticut had pulled the plug on an outsourcing project, and four or five municipal governments had unsuccessfully tried to outsource.

The Solution
Then, in Oct., 1999, says the County Technology Office Web site, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors made the decision to upgrade the county's information technology program through an outsourcing partnership. The Board voted unanimously to approve a seven-year agreement with Computer Sciences Corporation and its team of Pennant Alliance technology companies (the consortium).

There were to be four major changes occurring simultaneously, said Moore:
  • IT employees, hardware and processes were transferred to the consortium in what Moore called a "bold move."
  • Every component of the county's IT infrastructure was replaced.
  • The county's IT authority was centralized under a new County Technology Office, which Moore now oversees.
  • Three major systems were to be built, under fixed-price contracts: ERP through Oracle; a PeopleSoft HR and payroll system, and an integrated property tax system. The property tax system vendor went bankrupt, said Moore, and the contract was terminated.

    "Any one of those would have been seen as ambitious," said Moore. The idea was to make the changes quickly, although he said in retrospect the change management was difficult and things perhaps moved too rapidly for county staff to handle well. "We staffed the new County Technology Office with county employees that had been managing pieces of it, said Moore, "but they had never managed a performance-based contract. We had to learn to perform the new roles. The transformation and paradigm shift took three years. It was a painful time for people in the county."

    The Changes
    The changes were significant. Moore said that 17 separate help desks were combined into one; five e-mail systems became 1, and 800 or more servers -- distributed across 300 sites -- number about 520 today and are housed in a single data center. "We had no integrated security," said Moore, "we had every imaginable desktop and operating system." Some 12,000 county PCs now have a common operating and desktop system, and are refreshed every 36 months. Where there had been 45 stovepipes, an enterprise began to appear.

    "Now my staff concentrates on strategic IT planning," said Moore. While some IT staff work with private contractors, others are planning and building new systems.

    The pain of change has been offset by the added value of transformation, and Moore was careful to define value. "The outcome we wanted was not to save cost, but to improve service. Measurement is aimed at how are we performing from an IT perspective. Better service? Fewer outages? Are our 18,000 employees
  • satisfied?" Moore said there is a return on investment, but the county is spending more now on IT than it was five years ago.

    One of the benefits was the establishment of industry-standard service levels, with financial penalties that can be levied against providers, said Moore. Have- and have-not departments were leveled out, and disaster recovery and business continuity improved.

    Another advantage, said Moore, was that with a long-term contract for services, the IT budget is a known quantity, and since it is a long-term contract, IT is not the first to be cut, but "comes in at the top," of the county budget.

    When Moore took over, there were a number of situations to deal with. When IT governance changed to a centralized model, it lacked a support structure. Funding remained in the departments, and rules being made by the County Technology Office were not supported by the departments and didn't stick. "I wrote a set of IT guiding principles, said Moore, "architecture, off-the-shelf software, budget aligning to business, etc." Now, he said, the rules are consulted during decision-making and are generally accepted as the guiding principles. And the county now has a multi-layer decision making body that includes all the business units.

    "There were dramatic rewards for building a new infrastructure," said Moore. "Reliability is up and outages down, security increased as it was designed in, rather than being a bolt on." Moore said that every user is authenticated, that the county has a robust surveillance process. More than 900 major security vulnerabilities have been eliminated and the process continues. And now, said Moore, the county can talk about consolidating, about an enterprise.

    "The first four years was designed to get a unified and predictable IT environment. It changed my job from working on outages to working with department heads on how they want to transform their business. We focus on kids, safe and livable communities and the environment. We got our infrastructure then we shifted to delivering better services and cheaper services to our 3 million citizens."

    The county's portfolio of 800 business applications has been reduced to some 600 applications today, and they undergo a formal process of investment tracking through a four-quadrant matrix based on business value and cost to maintain. Those with high business value and low cost to maintain are retained. Applications with high business value but high cost will be replaced. And high-cost applications with low business value are eliminated.

    "Our role in the central IT shop is to help the business units select which they will replace," said Moore. Decision-making is done by representatives from the business units, who consult the rules and vote on IT decisions. Moore chairs the group, but doesn't vote except to break ties and help adjudicate.

    San Diego County has the same challenges as many counties. "We have an expanding population, declining state funding profile, aging workforce and baby boomers who are retiring," said Moore. "We need IT initiatives to provide more services with less money." Therefore, labor-intensive business processes are a priority for IT. Commercial builders, for example, must select a property, obtain environmental clearance, permits, etc. The process is very labor-intensive on the county side -- with manual processing from desk to desk -- and takes an average of five years to complete. Moore wants to use IT to cut the time and people required to handle such processing.

    What's Next?
    "The next major step the board asked us to do," he explained, "was to transform our business." Although the county ranked number one for Internet-based services last year in the Center for Digital Government's Digital Counties survey, there is more to be done in making county services available on the Web. After that, labor-intensive processes such as the developers' permitting mentioned earlier,
    • will be addressed, and then the needs of mobile county workers, beginning with a pilot project for Public Health nurses, designed to reduce data entry and double the time workers spend with clients in the field.

      The county's fourth strategic initiative is to renovate all back-office accounting functions such as payroll, and an integrated property tax system. A contract was pending and was due to be signed this week, said Moore.

      Other initiatives include:
    • A standard for imaging
    • a standard for document management
    • Creating a better applications architecture around security
    • Moving to a more robust storage area network environment -- a work in progress, as Moore says the county still has a lot of critical business records on paper
    "We are in year six of our seven-year contract," said Moore. "We're asking companies to submit some innovation. Part of the next outsourcing contract will involve business records. There will be an RFI on the 25th of this month, with a 45-day RFI period to show them what our environment is and where we're headed." By April 1 the county is expected to release an RFQ or RFP.
    Wayne Hanson

    Wayne E. Hanson served as a writer and editor with e.Republic from 1989 to 2013, having worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and Digital Communities. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education.

Platforms & Programs