States Plan to Cut Expenses By Sharing Software

States Plan to Cut Expenses By Sharing Software

By William Welsh, Staff Writer

Hoping to cut costs and avoid duplication, state chief information officers are laying plans to share software components of information technology systems that are common among the states.

The National Association of State Information Resource Executives, the association representing state CIOs, will work with the staff of the National Governors' Association to establish the process facilitating the sharing of software among the states, according to the two associations.

The mechanism likely will be in place by the next NASIRE conference in May 2001, according to NASIRE's executive committee.

If successful, the plan to share software components could save the states 75 percent to 80 percent on some of their larger IT systems costing as much as $50 million, said Mike Benzen, a former Missouri CIO. He is now vice president for government services at Tier Technologies Inc., Walnut Creek, Calif., one of the companies interested in the plan.

This activity would take place within the existing structures of the two associations or other existing organizations and would not require establishing a separate entity, said Thom Rubel, NGA's program director for state information technology.

NASIRE will lead the effort, and NGA will play a supporting role, he said.

Rather than taking business away from vendors, the clearinghouse mechanism the associations envision would provide the private sector with an additional market for selling components, said Georgia CIO Larry Singer, who is assisting with the initiative.

Although the idea of software sharing among states has been discussed before by NASIRE, it was never institutionalized, said Miles Weigold, NASIRE's corporate leadership council chairman, and business development manager for state and local government at Veritas Software Corp., Mountain View, Calif.

The corporate leadership council represents the association's corporate membership and includes systems integrators such as DynCorp, IBM Corp. and Litton-PRC.

"There have been one or two attempts to do this before at NASIRE, but the environment wasn't right," said Weigold. "We think that it's the right thing for NASIRE to put together."

The concept is more likely to succeed now because of advances in technology and development of tools that make it possible to separate the interchangeable parts of large systems from those parts that contain state-specific programming.

"Technology has progressed to the point where we can share systems without having to use other business rules," said Benzen.

Health and human services, and public safety are among those systems for which software components might be shared, officials said.

Although it is still in the planning stages, several state CIOs have suggested that their states might be interested in a pilot program, Weigold said.

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