New Georgia Authority Plans One-Stop IT Decision Shop

New Georgia Authority Plans One-Stop IT Decision Shop

Larry Singer

By William Welsh, Staff Writer

Under the newly created Georgia Technology Authority, the state will work with information technology companies as a single business enterprise rather than as a collection of agencies making independent decisions about IT solutions and expenditures, according to its new boss.

What this means for vendors is
the state will put increasing emphasis
on achieving business objectives
and creating value across the board,
said Larry Singer, who was confirmed July 17 as the authority's first executive director. As executive director, Singer also serves as the state's chief information officer.

"For those vendors that are solution-oriented, this will give them an opportunity to have greater input into the development of the solutions rather than responding with products to tight specifications for product purchases," he said. "It also means that vendors will be asked to define total value of their offerings rather than just the purchase cost."

As part of this effort, the GTA will be looking for opportunities to execute statewide licensing agreements where the state's purchase power can be brought to bear, Singer said.

In the coming months, Singer and the GTA will work with agencies to create a statewide strategic IT plan, conduct a gap analysis to determine what IT resources are needed and consult with state universities to ensure that IT research and development produces operational and economic benefits, Singer said. He estimated that the state spent between $750 million and $800 million for IT products and services in fiscal 1999.

The GTA, which will be responsible for establishing IT policy and procurement, standards and architecture, undoubtedly will benefit vendors doing business in the state, according to those watching the Georgia initiative.

Vendors that will benefit the most from a centralized authority are those that provide infrastructure-related products and services, such as computing, telecommunications and the Internet, said Washington state Chief Information Officer Steve Kolodney. Such purchases likely will be aggregated, he said.

"It means [vendors] will be able to respond to a large piece of business rather than a small piece of business," Kolodney said.

The Department of Information Services in the state of Washington has a centralized authority similar to the GTA, as do states such as Maryland and North Carolina, according to Kolodney. This essentially allows a state to broaden the competitive playing field.

In the state of Washington, for example, between 400 and 500 vendors routinely compete for infrastructure requirements. Kolodney said, however, that individual business applications are essentially left to the agencies themselves to implement.

"The real challenge is to find the right balance between the enterprise view and individual business applications," he said.

Oracle Corp. of Redwood City, Calif., is one of a number of companies expected to benefit from the ability of the authority to consolidate purchases related to infrastructure. Georgia also will reap benefits from this arrangement, said company officials.

"When you have an authority like this established by the governor, you get a real focus on providing to the state the best technology [companies] that the industry can muster to do business with the state at the right level," said Mike Gosey, branch manager of state and local government at Oracle.

"[Larry Singer] will get a real clear picture of what the state is trying to do on the whole [from an] e-government perspective. He will be able to map what a company such as Oracle brings to the state across that whole plan as opposed to having to look tactically at individual initiatives and individual agencies," Gosey said.

The Georgia legislature created the GTA, which became an official government office July 1, to oversee the planning, procurement and management of state government's telecommunications, Internet and computer systems. As executive director of the GTA, Singer works alongside a 12-member board of directors drawn from the private sector who have experience in managing large IT enterprises.

A standing advisory committee comprising representatives from state agencies will make recommendations to the authority about policies, standards and architecture.

The legislation redefined the role of the state CIO and made these fundamental changes to the position, said Singer:

? Provided funding for the GTA staff to carry out the duties of the office.

? Granted the CIO the ability to review and approve IT budgets.

? Provided the CIO the authority to require, review and approve strategic plans for IT.

? Granted the CIO authority over state procurement.

Previously, the CIO had no staff, "so regardless of what the [CIO's] authority was, the ability to exercise that authority was inhibited by lack of support services necessary to carry out the assignment," said Singer. "Now we will have staffing to put some teeth behind [our] policy."

The GTA's ability to monitor IT across agencies and ensure that agencies conform to standards that meet the state's best interests will allow the state to spend wisely the funding allocated for IT purchasing, according to Gosey.

"States are fiscally conscious, and they don't want to spend money twice to do the same job," said Gosey. "[Having] a centralized authority like this with a well-qualified CIO and supporting staff is absolutely the right way to do it."

This fiscal consciousness will be carried over by the GTA onto critical IT projects either planned or under way. Singer noted that the state is in the first stage of an IT procurement for a child welfare system within the Department of Human Resources. The state also will be reviewing its predominantly state-run telecommunications infrastructure to determine whether it wants to outsource more of the requirements.

Singer has addressed IT at the state level both as a vendor and as a policy consultant to the public sector. He proudly noted that he has worked in
one capacity or another with each of
the 50 state information technology organizations. It is this national
perspective on modernizing government services and implementing public policy with technology that garnered him the nomination from Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes (D).

"When you combine this experience with the breadth of authority of the legislation that created the GTA, I think we have the opportunity [in Georgia] to define a pre-eminent IT management organization among state governments in this country," said Singer.

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