Connecticut's Rowland Pushes IT Modernization

Connecticut's Rowland Pushes IT Modernization

Gov. John Rowland

Rock Regan

Two years after failing in an ambitious plan to outsource the state's information technology needs, Connecticut Gov. John Rowland hasn't soured on the idea of modernizing the state's IT systems, nor is he afraid of more controversy.

"It would've been very easy for [Rowland] to say, 'We failed at outsourcing, so don't ever talk to me about technology again, because I got a black eye [for it]'," said Rock Regan, chief information officer, Connecticut Department of Information Technology. "But he did the exact opposite. He increased the pressure for us to perform and has supported us not only from an administrative standpoint, but with money, too."

Since abandoning a planned $1.35 billion outsourcing deal with Electronic Data Systems Corp. in June 1999, the state has launched a variety of high-profile initiatives and has more in the works, including a statewide enterprise resource planning system, a criminal justice information system and an integrated tax system.

IBM Corp. of Armonk, N.Y., is building a new $9 million data center for the state, and Rowland used a visit to the site in East Hartford May 15 to highlight state services that are available online.

Regan said the governor's support for information technology has never wavered, even after he terminated the outsourcing project before a contract was signed.

"I think our goals haven't really changed from outsourcing to now," he said. "The goals were always to be more efficient and, more importantly, more effective in the way we're using this technology. If you look at the initiatives we are putting on the table, you'll see these are fairly large and important initiatives for the state's core systems."

For example, Connecticut has selected Sierra Systems Group Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia, to provide a Criminal Justice Information System that will allow 16 agencies and departments to share information stored in a central repository. At press time the contract was still under negotiation, but Regan said it was worth around $12 million.

The state also has selected PeopleSoft Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., to provide the software portion of its enterprise resource planning initiative. Accenture LLC's government unit in Reston, Va., will handle the integration for a series of ERP pilots across agencies, but the state will put the integration contract out for another bid before the year is over, said Regan.

The total value of the software and integration combined is between $70 million and $100 million, he said.

Yet another major project is the integration of the state's tax system. Only one company, Accenture, bid on the contract, and at press time, the state was considering whether to put it back on the street in an attempt to get more bids. The contract has an estimated value of between $30 million and $40 million, said Regan.

Connecticut's new data center will support statewide operations and e-government initiatives. Construction is scheduled for completion in July, and IBM will continue to work onsite through October, said IBM and state officials.

The contract originally was worth $12 million, but IBM passed some savings on labor along to the state and now will receive $9 million for the project, said Jerry Baseel, IBM Global Services ITS client manager for Connecticut and Vermont.

On the e-government front, Connecticut has prequalified 18 vendors to work on various e-government projects across 26 state agencies, said Nuala Forde, a department spokeswoman.

For example, the state is developing a new portal organized by services rather than by agency. Other e-government projects include a health area network that would disseminate health-related data, alerts and other information throughout the state, and a high-speed education network that would allow K-12 schools, public libraries and colleges and universities to share curriculum material.

The state already has completed a number of key online projects, including an e-procurement system, a lobbyist registration system and a business and professional licensing system.

An important internal initiative is making the IT personnel at the various state agencies part of Regan's central IT department.

The first phase of this consolidation began in July 2000 when 58 IT managers from state agencies joined the department, said Forde.

The second phase, scheduled for this year and pending approval by the state legislature, involves the transition of 109 more employees. This would increase the department's staff from 306 to 415 employees, she said.

But Rowland's IT moves still draw skepticism in some quarters.

Rick Melita, a spokesman for the Connecticut State Employees Association, said the governor has only paid lip service to the notion of strengthening the state's internal IT resources and staffing.

Melita and the employees' union had strongly opposed the outsourcing plan, contending that the governor should instead invest in the training and support of state IT workers. But Melita said members of Rowland's administration have deliberately sabotaged efforts for such funding.

"Part of the problem lies with the administration," he said. "We sat down with them after the governor pulled the plug on the EDS deal and tried to come up with some shared goals. But what has happened since then is the rest of the governor's administration has tried to stop these issues and alliances."

Melita said, for example, during the budget process, the Office of Personnel Management killed a $50,000 project for education and training specifically targeted for state IT employees.

"We're going to be careful that we aren't made scapegoats again," he said. "The governor said he wanted to keep IT in-house, and then he turned his back on us."

Interestingly, both the administration and the union believe partial or full privatization of state IT services is possible in either the current or a future administration. Rowland's term doesn't expire until January 2003.

Dean Pagani, a spokesman for Rowland, said the governor will make future decisions about outsourcing based on whatever he deems is the most effective and efficient way of delivering services to the state.

"[At the time], the governor thought privatization was the best way to go, when he found it wasn't that effective, he stepped back," said Pagani. "But if it were to make sense to privatize part of the IT system, then he would be interested in doing that."

Pagani noted that, under Rowland's privatization plan, the IT employees would have been guaranteed better positions in the private sector.

The governor "has never had a poor relationship with the IT employees as far as he knows," said Pagani.

About the Author

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

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