Sarasota County, Fla., CIO Bob Hanson, One of Government Technology's 25 'Doers Dreamers and Drivers'

'The data center had the capacity to serve as a magnet to induce collaboration -- that's what inspired us on the ASP model.'

by / March 4, 2005
Bob Hanson led Sarasota County's effort to acquire a massive data center that serves as a focal point for regional collaboration. He's consolidating countywide school and government data networks to unlock IT dollars for other projects. And he's working with two other counties to create a disaster recovery cooperative that would allow the jurisdictions to back each other up in case of emergency.

Hanson views collaboration as the future for government, and he's building a track record that proves the wisdom of that approach.

Several years ago, he convinced county officials to buy Arthur Andersen's Sarasota data center after the firm sank under the weight of multiple accounting scandals. Now the $12 million facility -- purchased by Sarasota for about $2 million -- provides a bulletproof platform for county applications, and delivers an advanced budgeting and finance system to neighboring communities through an application service provider (ASP) arrangement.

"The data center had the capacity to serve as a magnet to induce collaboration -- that's what inspired us on the ASP model," Hanson said. "Budget directors from six different communities now partner on this, so we have six minds working on how to best do this process. We're all getting a tremendous system for a sixth of the cost."

Hanson, named CIO of the county school board late last year, sees similar benefits in combining separate school and government networks and data centers. "Bringing those two organizations together makes so much sense within our community," he said.

Spurred by a relentless hurricane season, he's also forming a regional disaster recovery cooperative with his counterparts in Florida's Martin and Collier counties.

"If Sarasota County got hit and I lost some critical systems, I could roll them over to Martin County -- which is across the state," Hanson said. "We would be sharing each other's facilities to address critical needs."

Backed by forward-thinking county leaders and a talented IT staff, Hanson said he intends to continue searching for opportunities to collaborate. "I think this is how governments will leapfrog past the private sector."

Congratulations to this year's group of "Doers, Dreamers and Drivers," who appear in the March issue of Government Technology magazine.
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