Florida Weathers Resignation of CIO

Florida Weathers Resignation of CIO<@VM>Interim Priorities<@VM>A New Kind of Job Sharing for CIOs

The Florida state technology office is forging ahead with consolidation of the state's information technology resources into a central technology office, despite being rocked by the resignation of the chief information officer, who would have directed the effort.

While the office of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush conducts a national search for a permanent CIO, the responsibility for the consolidation has fallen upon an interim CIO. If the consolidation is not completed this fiscal year as planned, or the hiring of the CIO is delayed, new IT projects and business opportunities likely will be delayed as well, said analysts and industry observers.

State officials told Washington Technology that plans are on track to transfer 1,640 technology employees to the Florida Department of Management Services' State Technology Office. The transfer should be completed by December, officials said.

Along with the transfer of employees, the technology office will become responsible for $580 million in IT funding for fiscal 2002, including about $150 million set aside for new IT procurement, officials said. These funds previously had been controlled by the agencies.

The consolidation of IT employees and funding under the State Technology Office was mandated by a Florida law that became effective July 1.

Florida Rep. Chris Hart IV, chairman of the Florida House of Representatives' Information Technology Committee and sponsor of the legislation, said Bush is committed to seeing the state take an enterprise approach to IT. That would mean that project planning and spending authority are controlled from a central technology office.

Hart said some Florida lawmakers have reservations about the consolidation because they fear the effort is too large to undertake. But Hart said the state technology office has put together a strong plan that will enable them to successfully implement the enterprise approach.

"When push comes to shove, everybody will realize that this is a good idea," Hart said.

Acting CIO Kim Bahrami said the consolidation effort is one of her key challenges and top priorities during the interim period.

"We have a strong commitment from the governor's office in support of the transition, [and] are working closely with the budget office to make sure that this will happen seamlessly," Bahrami said. She was previously chief of staff for the State Technology Office. Before that, she was a consultant for the Department of Defense's Composite Health Care System, which provides cost-effective health care to military personnel.

The governor's office has not set a deadline by which it would have a permanent CIO on board, Bahrami said.Former chief information officer Roy Cales resigned Aug. 30 after a grand theft warrant was issued for his arrest for an incident that occurred five years ago and was unrelated to his state employment.

Cales is accused of forging a signature on a letter used to obtain a bank loan for computer equipment. The alleged discrepancies became apparent when his company, Integrity Data Inc., subsequently went bankrupt.

Besides trying to sustain the momentum for consolidation, Bahrami said her priorities are to carry on Cales' vision for a single portal for state services, help agencies comply with the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and consolidate geographic information systems data for use by state agencies and departments.

Meanwhile, the State Technology Office is working with the Department of Management Services on an e-procurement initiative and expects to move forward with the project in the next three or four months, Bahrami said.

Accenture Ltd. of Hamilton, Bermuda, and KPMG Consulting Inc. of McLean, Va., received the highest and second highest scores, respectively, from a field of 17 firms that bid on the contract earlier this year. The two companies are waiting to begin negotiations with the state for the final award.

As for e-government, Bahrami said she wants to enhance the personalization attributes of MyFlorida.com, the state's official Web site, as well as expand the new online licensing and permitting system operated by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation for other agencies.

At stake regarding the CIO replacement in Florida is the continuing expansion of e-government services to businesses and citizens and the enterprise approach toward information technology, said Tom Davies, a senior vice president with Current Analysis Inc., Sterling, Va.

Many integrators, including Affiliated Computer Services Inc. of Dallas, Accenture, KPMG Consulting and Unisys Corp. of Blue Bell, Pa., have large contracts in place with various agencies and have invested their time and resources in developing a solid business relationship with the state. If the consolidation initiative is stalled or hiring a new CIO is unduly delayed, then new business opportunities will be hurt, Davies said.

"This is a terribly important transition in terms of the momentum the governor might lose toward IT consolidation," he said. "I don't see the transition as jeopardizing any existing contracts, but it could slow down the momentum the state has built up over the last two years."

Accenture is providing the licensing and permitting solution for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and the company hopes to win more of the same kind of work with the state, said Geir Kjellevold, a partner with Accenture.

The project includes a two-year development phase that began in February, followed by a six-year support phase. Accenture declined to disclose the value of the contract.

The licensing and permitting solution might be expanded to departments of finance and administration, health and human services and insurance, Kjellevold said.

"This is an interesting option for a lot of those agencies, but there is no direct follow-on [work]," he said. "We need to demonstrate that this is a good solution for everybody."

Kjellevold said Accenture wants to help the state use technology to achieve business changes. An important part of this change and the consolidation of technology resources is embodied in MyFlorida.com, he said.

"We are an important part of that effort," Kjellevold said, referring to the company's licensing and permitting project for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Unisys' provides solutions in Florida for health and human services, justice and transportation, said spokeswoman Gail Ferrari.

For Florida's Department of Children and Families, Unisys provides IT solutions to support child welfare and adult services and child support enforcement, she said. The company holds a three-year contract with two one-year extensions valued at $59 million for an integrated public assistance and child support enforcement application.Florida is not alone in its search for a new chief information officer. It joins Alabama, Tennessee and Washington as states with interim CIOs that are scouring the public and private sectors for a permanent official who would report directly to the governor, said Chris Dixon, digital government coordinator for the National
Association of State Chief Information Officers, Lexington, Ky.

The person that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush chooses as his new state chief information officer will inherit the challenging task of completing the centralization of information technology under his or her authority.

The right candidate for the job should have a strong understanding of technology as well as strong executive leadership skills to successfully complete the task at hand, said Florida Rep. Chris Hart IV, chairman of the Florida House of Representatives' Information Technology Committee.

"This is an opportunity to allow us to put in the type of person who can help agency and department heads see what [an enterprise approach] is all about," Hart said.

More than a few states have an arrangement whereby the CIO handles the policy side of the job and works on getting agencies to buy into the enterprise IT approach, while a deputy CIO handles the technology implementation side, Dixon said.

The Meta Group Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., is advising its state clients to take this approach, said Amy Santenello, a Meta research analyst for electronic government strategies. Meta recommends that states hire a CIO from the private sector to work the political and funding issues, and recruit a deputy CIO from the public sector to handle technology implementation.

"It will take teams or arrangements such as this to make centralization work," Santenello said.

Some states have adopted this approach, Dixon said, adding that NASCIO has refrained from articulating a model CIO job description.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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