States Dial Up

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States Dial Up Technology Consultants

State government officials - deluged by high-tech problems, automation programs, outsourcing efforts and federal mandates - are staying afloat with help from the fast-growing technology consultant community.

Spending at the state and local level for IT consulting is expected to grow from $377 million in 1996 to $729 million by 2001, said Marianne Hedin, an analyst with International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass.

Much of that spending will be for year 2000 computer software work and changes associated with sweeping welfare reform, but state governments and their agencies also are exploring ways to use IT to improve their performance and cut costs.

"Like many other states with large, multiple data centers, Pennsylvania has an initiative underway to consolidate the data centers and outsource part of that process," said Thomas Davies, vice president of state and local government for Federal Sources, McLean, Va.

Currently being bid, the Pennsylvania plan is based on
an in-depth study by KPMG Peat Marwick LLP. Other states,
including New York and New Jersey, are considering similar plans. California, for example, is now considering recommendations by Deloitte and Touche Consulting Group contained in a study of the state's Department of Information Technology data centers.

At least half of the states are exploring this kind of centralized effort, but at the same time individual agencies are working on separate IT scenarios to meet their own needs, said Rob Bowell, a partner in the state and local practice at Coopers & Lybrand, Arlington, Va.

For example, Coopers is helping Virginia's Department of Transportation coordinate its IT initiatives. Among other things, the department is reducing dozens of systems to a core few and building a data warehouse. Bowell said his firm is acting in a quality assurance role.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation turned to IntraNet Solutions Inc., Minneapolis, Minn., for help in consolidating millions of differently formatted documents on a geographic information system-based digital library.

The resulting system will be Web-based so it can be distributed to libraries outside the firewall, and documents, such as environmental impact statements, can be viewed by the public, said Keith Slater, right of way manager, Minnesota DOT Metro Division.

Management solution specialist Robbins & Gioia Inc., Alexandria, Va., is helping Michigan's Department of Transportation cut time and costs associated with planning its road programs, said Jim Karwel, the company's executive vice president for business development.

The firm also is involved in identifying the agency's requirements for federal dollars to support road construction within the state, he said.

- Ed McKenna

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