How Colorado Is Attacking Technical and Political IT Silos

Loraine Lawson

Experts repeatedly tell me that one of the biggest barriers to removing data silos isn't the technology-it's the politics. While people like information to be shared with them, they seldom like to share what they consider theirs.


It's a tough issue, no question. And I would argue that it can be particularly tough to solve in government organizations, where there's even less incentive to share information than in the private sector.


As tricky as this issue is, the state of Colorado is tackling it head-on. In a three-part CivSource series called "Moving Mountains," officials with Colorado's Office of Information Technology share how they're overcoming in-grained silos-both political and technical-to create an integrated technology management strategy at the state level.


I admit, the first step might be a bit tricky for private organizations to implement. You know how we always talk about the importance of executive sponsorship in enterprise-wide initiatives? Well, Colorado took that one step further and passed two bills into law that took executive sponsorship to a whole other level, according to the last piece in the series, which focuses on data management.


This was a critical step to dealing with data silos, according to Micheline Casey, the State Chief Data Officer.


"Agencies are real concerned, from a liability perspective, about sharing," Casey says. "But what we've found is that often times those are artificial barriers-we've been working hard to break down those barriers and focus on the real barriers."


Casey herself is another critical component of the state's plan. Colorado is the only state in the nation to have a Chief Data Officer responsible for the creation of a statewide data strategy and management program.


The business case for the state's data quality initiative is fairly straightforward: Casey says there's a lot of incorrect, duplicated data, and it's driving business decisions such as eligibility for state programs, funding and resource allocation.


But it's not just about the data. Colorado has developed a smart, aggressive plan for modernization of its fractured approach to IT across state and county agencies. Besides planning for modernizing old technology, the state is modernizing how IT works by:

  • Introducing an enterprise-wide framework.
  • Consolidating and gaining control of IT spending.
  • Placing constraints on proposals that exceed $10,000.
  • Requiring the state CIO to sign off on all contracts with IT components.
  • Unifying agency IT expenditure reporting.


Obviously, anyone involved with a government organization would do well to read this piece, but I think there are a lot of important takeaways here for private companies-even enterprises-as well. Part one of the series, "Moving Mountains: Colorado charts path towards IT consolidation in new report," is the place to start, but be forewarned: It doesn't link to Parts II and III.


Part II, "Moving Mountains: Concurrent Swim Lanes in OIT's consolidation plan," is where the meaty discussion of organizational changes begins and, as I mentioned, data is the subject of the last installment, "Moving Mountains: Sharing data on both sides of the Continental Divide."

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