CIO Should Help State Get Handle on IT Spending

Ann All

While I and other IT Business Edge writers have noted the efforts of federal government agencies to use technology to improve their operations and better serve constituents, there are similar efforts under way at state government agencies as well, some of them quite impressive.


Mike Vizard mentions some of them in last week's post on updating the archaic method employed by the U.S. government for collecting census data. Loraine Lawson just wrote about Colorado's ambitious plan to modernize its fractured approach to IT across state and county agencies. Key tenets of the plan include consolidating and gaining control of IT spending, unifying agency IT expenditure reporting and requiring the state CIO to sign off on all contracts with IT components.


Big deal, you may think, don't most IT organizations already have a pretty good handle on their spending? Not in state government. (Or to be fair, at many private companies.)


Yet thanks to (ironically) government regulation, private companies have a greater incentive than public agencies to keep their spending practices transparent. Private companies also rarely have governance structures as convoluted as the one up until recently found in the state of Virginia.


So there's a lot of cluelessness to go around in state government. Witness Oklahoma, which just appointed its first CIO ever, if for no other reason than to make someone accountable for the state's IT. "The buck's got to stop with someone," said Rep. Jason Murphey, a Republican who heads up the state's House Government Modernization Committee. The paragraph that really says it all, in the Associated Press story about the appointment of Alex Pettit:

Officials estimate Oklahoma employs about 1,500 people who support information technology and spends more than $340 million on the service each year, not including personnel costs.

Yep, that's right. It sounds like the state doesn't know how many IT staffers it employs or how much it spends on IT. Let's hope that appointing a CIO will, if nothing else, shed some light on spending. Legislation that created Pettit's position also requires him to to assess the state's IT operations and prepare a comprehensive plan identifying areas in state government where technology infrastructure and applications can be shared.


According to the AP article, Oklahoma was one of four states without a CIO before Pettit was hired. The other three states also must have appointed CIOs, based on a list of state CIOs I found on the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Web site.

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