Eye on the States: Are your customers dependable?

Thomas Davies

At this time of year, everyone tries to forecast state technology spending. But such outlooks notoriously miss the mark. Here's a quiz for determining how likely a state is to follow through on its spending intentions. For each question, choose the response that best characterizes the state you're hoping to do business with.

1. Does the state know what it wants to do with technology?

A. The state has a clear technology plan two years into the future, closely aligned with its program plans.

B. The state has a technology plan for the current year that is only loosely aligned with its operating budget.

C. The state has no technology plan, only an operating budget.

2. Does the state know how much it spends on technology, for what and with whom?

A. The state continuously measures spending with accounting and purchasing systems that capture the details.

B. The state measures technology spending periodically with a lot of help from outside consultants.

C. The state is guessing.

3. Is the state reliable?

A. The state usually meets or exceeds public commitments about the technology results it promises.

B. The state works hard to meet public commitments, but usually falls short and is rarely held accountable for it.

C. The state spends millions, sometimes billions, on technology without meeting public commitments.

4. When was the last time the state justified its technology budget?

A. Every year, as a matter of standard technology budgeting practices.

B. Occasionally, when there is a fiscal crisis.

C. Never.

5. How competitive is the operation of the state's technology resources?

A. The state can compete against the best from the private sector and isn't afraid to do so.

B. The state has outside consultants do blame-avoidance benchmarking of its operating performance.

C. State leaders do benchmarking with their peers over drinks at national conferences.

6. Is there a "one state" view of technology?

A. Everyone is on the same script.

B. There are natural institutional differences, but they are manageable.

C. Depends on who you ask and the time of the day you ask it.

7. What kind of press does the state get for its technology management practices?

A. Plenty of positive press without having to pay for it.

B. Sporadic bad press but mostly one-day stories.

C. National poster child for what not to do.

8. How much fraud, waste or abuse has the state eliminated through technology?

A. Millions of dollars worth, resulting in some criminal convictions.

B. Spends as much on technology to uncover fraud, waste and abuse as it eliminates.

C. Contributes to fraud, waste and abuse by misspending monies.

9. What is the total savings from technology investments?

A. There are hard numbers that can stand up to external, independent scrutiny.

B. Some soft numbers exist about future cost avoidance.

C. Can't find anyone who says it's his job to save money.

10. How many technology executives have been forced out?

A. None.

B. A few, but largely as a result of a change in governor.

C. Because of procurement screw-ups, failed consolidation efforts, links to improper campaign contributions and alleged fraud, there have been so many you've lost count.

Give your state five points for every A response, three points for every B response and one point for every C response. If your score totals 43 or higher, you've got a winner, and you can count on that state delivering. If your total is 35 to 42, hedge your bets and have a back-up plan just in case. If the total is below 35, save yourself, and your stockholders, some money and find another state to do business with.

Thomas Davies is senior vice president at Current Analysis Inc., Sterling, Va. His e-mail address is tdavies@


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