Virginia Upgrades for the 21st Century

The chief information officer of Virginia talks about his plan to update the state's 20-year-old information systems.

P> In the second of a two-part series on infotech spending in states that comprise the Washington area, Hud Croasdale, director of the Virginia Council on Information Management in Richmond, Va., outlines his strategy for infotech spending in Virginia. Croasdale serves as the chief information officer of Virginia and was appointed by Gov. George Allen in June 1994. Before being appointed, Croasdale, who has a graduate degree from the University of Southern California in systems management, worked at AT&T in Northern Virginia on large commercial and federal government programs.

The Council on Information Management was created by the 1988 General Assembly to manage information technology resources for all Virginia agencies, colleges and universities.

As CIO, Croasdale is responsible for the council's direction, vision and a staff of eight technology professionals and administrative assistants.

WT: You have $500 million to spend on information technology in Virginia. How is it distributed?

CROASDALE: Certainly we spend quite a bit on our systems that support our initial services such as Medicare, food stamps, child support. And a number of systems in the department of social services spend quite a bit each year, not only in systems development but in telecommunications.

WT: What programs are you working on?

CROASDALE: We're working on a number of high-level development programs to lay the ground-work. We're trying to get a broadband network started here in the commonwealth. A number of the universities either have plans for or are starting to develop deployed distance learning throughout Virginia. [We want] to ensure that each of the universities can use a common backbone that will have one network. There may be many universities, colleges or K-12 that can form a distance learning network that would not have to deal with [an uncommon] backbone. The infrastructure would be coordinated statewide.

WT: What is your strategy for infotech development?

CROASDALE: Our strategy is to ensure that we don't have duplicate systems developed by multiple agencies, to develop a broadband network that can be used by all colleges, universities and state agencies, to ensure that we use an open architecture and to work closely with the agencies and universities so that they spend wisely.

WT: How are the current state information systems designed?

CROASDALE: Some agencies have cross-agency boundaries; some are stand-alone. There is no need for all the agencies to communicate with each other. We have a state data center, so there are a number of agencies that use applications in that data center on our mainframe. They are linked and use a common statewide communication network.

WT: What do you think of the current state of your systems?

CROASDALE: We've got too many applications running. We've got applications out there that were developed over 20 years ago. Certainly they are not state-of-the-art, and they don't have some of the features new systems might have, but they work fine. It's a balance between the functionality of the system and the cost of developing something that is not even needed. That's something the agencies make the determination on.

There are some systems that need some improvement. [We're working on a project now] to develop a human resources and payroll system. That is an area that we need to improve. Each agency [decides] if the system they are using needs improvement or needs to be replaced.

WT: What is the future of infotech in Virginia?

CROASDALE: We look at technology today and review what agencies have planned in the near term. Technology plays a major part in almost every program that is being considered. The overall expenditures for technology will continue to increase. Our communications network will see a rapid growth in the number of users and volume. We're going to attempt to utilize technology to our advantage so that we can provide better service at a lower cost.

WT: What types of contracts will you be putting out?

CROASDALE: There will be a [request for proposal] for our human resources and payroll system. There is a current RFP for the outsourcing of several large social services applications. There will be some efforts in statewide maintenance of PCs, and there will be some effort to do some integration work with some of the existing systems in our social services and public safety areas.

WT: Are you using electronic commerce or any other unique ways to post contracts?

CROASDALE: There is limited use of electronic commerce. That's another area in which a considerable amount of effort is being made. There are proposals to make better use of electronic commerce.

We're looking at how we can integrate the ordering process that connects to our payment module, which already exists for electronic payments. We're trying to integrate those two efforts. We already have an electronic bulletin board with our current procurements that have been released. We [want to] develop a system that will allow more interaction between the state and the vendors to access our procurement manual, check on procurements, respond to RFPs and link the ordering system with our payment system.

WT: How does the federal budget affect your IT budget?

CROASDALE: It affects it quite a bit. Some of the largest state agencies receive a large amount of federal dollars, such as social services and the Department of Transportation. We will see an increase in IT dollars because of the block grants to states. If block grants go through, which we expect in some way, you'll see a substantial increase in responsibility to all states.

WT: What is your interest in IT?

CROASDALE: When the governor calls, you usually respond. I'm doing this because I think there is a real opportunity here to make sure that we use technology wisely in some of the major systems developments or efforts that are going on.

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