One important plank of Matt Blunt’s successful 2004 gubernatorial campaign was the importance of IT consolidation. In January of 2005, I was appointed by Governor Blunt as Missouri’s chief information officer. My goal: Carry out that consolidation effort.
Looking back after a year on the job, I notice two things stand out. The first is that when Governor Blunt asked me to consider the CIO position, he said we needed to reduce the duplication and waste that came with 16 state cabinet agencies making independent tech expenditure decisions and with each boasting a full complement of IT staff to support the agency architecture.
The second thing occurred during the press conference about my appointment when a reporter asked, “How much does Missouri state government spend on information technology?” I thought for a moment and then replied, “No one knows, but it is a large number.”
Since then, technology consolidation has helped us determine that number to be $205 million for the agencies that are required to participate in the IT consolidation and another $70 million for the agencies and entities outside the consolidation.
Following my appointment, my first task was to ferret out opportunities for cost avoidance, staff reductions and/or productivity increases in order to deliver the cost savings needed to help fund the administration’s program initiatives. However, I found that I was only half right and that there are two sides to this story.
The half-right part is that there have been, and continue to be, innumerable opportunities for reducing duplication and waste.
Through consolidation, Governor Blunt has provided me with the mechanism to oversee and leverage Missouri’s annual $205 million IT investment. My products and services support agencies, and none of my customers want less IT support, development, access, reliability and bandwidth.
The same holds true for the citizens using the state’s products and services. By reinvesting our tech savings, Missouri can remain technologically competitive in the foreseeable future without requesting new increased IT budget authority.
The half-wrong part concerned my assumption about the intended use of the savings — that it would be used to fund more program initiatives.
While I know it’s a good idea to reinvest in technology, it’s also necessary to spread that knowledge to other state leaders and agencies. In Missouri, it’s the governor, legislators (especially the leaders of budget and appropriations committees) and House and Senate budget offices.
Things become interesting when, through IT consolidation, the true picture of the state’s technology investment becomes clear and hundreds of millions of dollars are concentrated in your budget. You’ll need informed friends in high places to keep the investment intact.
The message you need to deliver, though, is complex. It goes like this: “I now have a $205 million budget thanks to consolidation. In addition, I have opportunities for annual cost savings representing several million dollars, and I want to reinvest it to keep state IT architecture current and to compensate my technical staff at competitive rates.”
Legislators, especially the governor, need two things to become your IT ally. They need tools to help them communicate with their constituents and with each other. They also need concrete examples of how their constituents (i.e., voters) are directly or indirectly benefiting from government agency services the IT team has enabled.
Budget and appropriations committee chairpersons are important because they control the processes that determine the flow of spending authority in and out of your budget. You should spend time with them on a regular basis before, during and after the legislative session to discuss IT spending and benefits.
IT consolidation offers tremendous opportunities for leveraging a state’s technology investment. But don’t ever believe that because your intentions are noble, your cause is just and your budget is consolidated that you are poised for success. You’re at the halfway point. Once you consolidate and start saving, it’s time to sell your technology reinvestment vision.