California initiatives in full bloom

Long-overdue modernizations create wealth of opportunities

S&L Opportunities: Modernization on their mind

California is developing a full slate of information technology projects that could total $5 billion to $7 billion in the next decade. Many of the projects involve modernizing systems and developing shared architectures, infrastructures and tools for the rapid deployment of new applications and services.

Among the projects the state is considering:

FISCal: A statewide, integrated financial and administration system that will use enterprise resource planning software. The system will manage resources and dollars for functions such as budgeting and procurement, cost accounting and human resources. Its value could run as high as $1.4 billion in eight to 10 years.

Spatial Data Infrastructure: The infrastructure will include a framework of geospatial datasets, systems, standards, policies and practices. A Geospatial Services Office will be stood up this summer to keep policy-makers informed. The infrastructure will be a tool for economic development and other business activities.

Document Management: The state wants to standardize architectures and processes across California's various document-management systems. The intent is to share peak workloads, provide aid during disasters and make more efficient use of printers and related equipment. Standardization also will help with tracking and archiving hardware and software licenses. A document-management systems committee will begin work in May and will issue a solicitation by July 2008 to possibly consolidate management and document printing centers and use the centers for better economies of scale, disaster recovery and increased security.

Other large procurements include infrastructure upgrades to the California Motor Vehicles Department and a planned IT upgrade for its child-welfare programs.

"You don't want to get to the end of a project and find that what you have doesn't work." | Clark Kelso, California CIO

Jon Hope | World Picture News

Systems integrators working in California will find a lush landscape of state government initiatives to bid on during the next two years as the state moves to modernize older systems, improve business practices and enhance delivery of e-government services.

According to California Chief Information Officer Clark Kelso, some 177 information technology projects worth roughly $5 billion are already under way throughout the state. The projects are in various stages of development. Within the next 12 to 24 months, California will be conducting an additional 60 or 70 procurements, large and small. In aggregate, Kelso estimates, potential contract value should amount to at least another $2 billion.

"We have a series of modernizations that have to take place," Kelso said.
Kelso credits the forward momentum to California's political leadership, which has come to a consensus that a patchwork approach to IT won't work. The new emphasis is on shared architectures and infrastructure. Although complex and initially expensive, these solutions avoid the pricier alternative and compounding costs of the status quo.

One such example is a project for a statewide, integrated financial and administrative system based on enterprise resource planning software. Once it is fully implemented, the project, named FI$Cal, will manage resources and dollars for a wide array of administrative processes, from budgeting and procurement to cost accounting and human resources activities.

Later this year, the state will draw up a request for proposals, with a contract awarded sometime in 2008. Its value could run as high as $1.4 billion in eight to 10 years.

Jens Egerland, managing director for California state and local government with Accenture Ltd., said two major trends are at work in the state. One trend involves modernizing and updating longtime legacy systems, and the other concerns enterprise initiatives like the FI$Cal project. "California is a great marketplace to be in for IT right now," he said.

Stack of solicitations

California also will be implementing what it is calling a Spatial Data Infrastructure, comprising framework geospatial datasets, systems, standards, policies and practices. By this summer, the state plans to set up a Geospatial Services Office. By integrating the state's extensive datasets on human enterprises with maps of California's natural terrain and geography, leaders hope to optimize economic development and other business-related activities.

Another key initiative will be standardization of architectures and processes across California's document-management systems. The intent, Kelso said, is to share peak workloads, provide mutual aid during disasters, make more efficient use of printers and related equipment, and provide a more efficient means of tracking and archiving technology hardware and software licenses. The state will establish a document-management systems committee in May that, by July 2008, will issue a solicitation on how management and document printing centers could be consolidated or leveraged for economies of scale, disaster recovery and increased security.

Other large procurements in the offing involve infrastructure upgrades to the California Motor Vehicles Department and a planned IT upgrade for child-welfare programs.

But large opportunities aren't the only ones available.

Mike Keating, senior vice president of state and local government programs at CGI of Fairfax, Va., said his company is seeing more opportunities in the $10 million to $30 million range this year than it saw two years ago.

"In some cases they're recompeting contracts or taking older contracts and adding in new components," Keating said.

For the largest ventures, Keating said, there should be enough money to go around to make allies of potential competitors. Although there still will be traditional setups, with one prime contractor directing the activities of numerous subcontractors, there's the likely prospect of the big companies teaming more or less equally.

"In applications alone, we're tracking close to a billion dollars in potential opportunity," Keating said. "I think you'll see that number climb. [And that's] not even counting infrastructure, like telephony or IT."

Phased rollouts

Winning an award is one thing. Fitting the pieces together successfully is another. That's why, Kelso said, all of the current and future projects have discrete milestones and evaluation points. If performance issues are discovered, or various components fail or are found to be below par, corrective action can be taken quickly and decisively. There's no reason to pay for something that doesn't meet or exceed expectations, Kelso said.

"We're convinced that's the proper way to manage and evaluate the risks with large IT. So far it's worked very well," he said. "You don't want to get to the end of a project and find that what you have doesn't work."

As proof, Kelso points to a phased rollout of California's upgraded child-support-payments system, which is being handled by IBM Corp. through an $800 million contract awarded in 2003. Upgrades are being methodically implemented in 17 phases throughout each of the state's 58 counties. Full deployment will take 16 months ? with the California legislature watching closely.

"We have a lot on the plate moving forward," Kelso said, who is anxious to see the child-support system completed. "In the California legislature, that project is a bellwether. If we can do [it successfully], it will give the legislature confidence that we can handle these others."

James Schultz is a freelance writer in Norfolk, Va.

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