Technology reform

the bold dominion

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Why is Virginia traditionally called The Old Dominion? In 1663, Charles II of England quartered the arms of Virginia on his shield, thus adding Virginia to his dominions of France, Ireland and Scotland. Called the “mother state” because it was the first state to be colonized, Virginia was one of the dominions on Charles II's shield and therefore the Old Dominion among the newly colonized states.

Summary of Workshop

The Commonwealth of Virginia is very proud to present to the PMI Europe 2003 Congress a new initiative in technology recently implemented in our state. Presenters for this workshop will be covering the following objectives:

  • Gain an understanding the new and nationally unique approach to technology reform that Virginia is currently implementing.
  • Learn the underlying guiding principles of this reform.
  • Review an actual county's experience using this approach.
  • Explore lessons learned from this reform

Governor Mark Warner was elected to office in November 2001 and was sworn in January 2002. Known as the “technology Governor”, he immediately put together a strong legislative agenda that included “consolidating state government technology resources.” Governor Warner was facing a major budget shortfall in state revenues and knew from his private business experience, the potential of information technology to contribute solutions to this financial problem. State agencies, already cut millions of dollars, were facing a second cut of 15% to make up a $1.5 Billion budget shortfall.

In the spring of 2002, the Governor wanted to know the exact level of resources invested by state government in technology. He tasked Technology Secretary George Newstrom with determining that figure and he returned with his best estimates being “give or take $100 million.” The Governor then urged the Secretary to return to the drawing board to determine a more exact figure. Secretary Newstrom, for the first time in Virginia, began an effort he entitled “Due Diligence” asking state agencies specific data on all resources, including personnel, consultants, hardware, software, infrastructure, maintenance, etc. State agency heads and cabinet secretaries were asked to “certify” the figures and signed statements attesting to their accuracy. Secretary Newstrom then reported to Governor Warner that the state's investment was approximately $900 million.

The Secretary began to discuss with the Governor and Cabinet, ways to plan for streamlining with a reduction of duplication of efforts across the enterprise called “state government”. A Strategic Plan was developed, called The Global Economy and the Bold Dominion, Commonwealth of Virginia Strategic Plan and was presented to our statewide technology conference in September 2002.

The Plan contains four major goals that include concepts of increasing skills of the current workforce, improving services to our citizens and making policy adaptable to the changing technology environment. The final goal was to make digital government a reality. To do this would require profound changes in the culture, processes and relationships that define state government. This latter goal is the essence of the technology reform now underway in Virginia.

The Strategic Plan is an extremely detailed and lengthy map of the future of technology in Virginia. Determined to create “one Virginia” in IT, the plan laid out five major components. At a high level, these components included consolidation, improved service delivery to our citizens, reform procurement processes, overhaul planning/budgeting and tracking of IT expenditures and harnessing the power to do business over the Internet. These components are major undertakings with many action steps and return on investment requirements. But, in essence, the Governor wants to move the “Old Dominion” to the “Bold Dominion” through technology reform.

The goal now set, and high level components named, the Governor and Secretary Newstrom began the campaign to gain support of major stakeholders. The Due Diligence project made agency heads and cabinet leaders aware, probably for the first time, of the total resources being invested in technology! Meetings were held with members of Technology Associations, both executive and legislative committees and leaders and the private sector leadership. A picture emerged of several key areas that needed immediate action. The Secretary wanted to improve the allocation of resources and to promote best practices statewide. He spoke often of saving money by leveraging buying power.

In this latter effort, the Secretary used the example of one company's PC agency contracts for major procurements had the same company's computers coming in at 14 different contractual prices. While he realized prices change with time, the differences in purchasing costs caused him great concern. He was determined that the state better utilize taxpayers funds and negotiate contracts in a way that provided the best leverage in buying. If those fourteen state agencies joined together in one contract, the savings would have been substantial. Thus, he argued for total centralization of procurement to save funds.

The Secretary also advocated the centralization of all technology resources. He saw this as a way to revolutionize service to citizens in the Commonwealth as well as to reduce costs. With scarce resources for upgrading the skills of technology workers, this centralization also includes plans for major training in IT to enable Virginia to take advantage of the most recent technological solutions. He also proposed an enterprise wide overhaul solution for state government in processing personnel and finances so that agencies had real time data and could share information utilizing more logical data transfers.

Basically, the Governor and Secretary Newstrom adopted seven guiding principles for this reform. They acknowledged that technology is complex and essential change is urgently needed. The principles revamp the way government does business. Accountability drives results and performance management is the crux of good decision making. Eight major and distinct strategic initiatives (Figure 1) were launched and will be discussed in some high level detail in the workshop. The focus on these initiatives is to propel Virginia into a major leadership role using technology based economic development. (Strategic Inititives, 2002)

Figure 1

Figure 1

The Governor introduced his technology reform to the legislature through a bill is known as the VITA bill. Virginia Information Technology Agency (VITA) is part of a very detailed new law now in Virginia (effective July 1, 2003). It promotes business driven and customer focused approaches to technology improvements.

When he proposed this legislation, Governor Warner issued the following overarching imperative:

“Develop the role of the Chief Information Officer so that Virginia's Technology Resources are effective, efficient and meet the needs of our customers, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” (The global digital economy and the bold dominion, 2002, p. 6)

Governor Warner has supported technology reform since entering office by requiring state agencies to develop solutions so that citizens can get online to conduct business instead of standing in line. While Virginia had already accomplished this in some key areas (state taxes are now filed online and motor vehicle procedures are now done online), Governor Warner is determined to expand that effort across state agencies.

There are four dimensions for a strong CIO in Virginia's model. The first dimension is Service to our customers at an excellent level. Service delivery is the measure of competence for a CIO. The second dimension is Strategy by providing direction and oversight. The statewide CIO must provide successful strategies to establish credibility. Thirdly is Leadership by making changes to government operations through the use of innovative and transformative technology solutions Lastly is the dimension of Governance. This critical dimension requires the involvement of the stakeholders in decision-making. Governance, in the Virginia model, makes change possible, achievable and sustainable. . The consolidation overall goal is to “do no harm” and maintain or improve agency service levels. Model memoranda of agreements and Service Level agreements are now being drafted for negotiations with agency heads.

The legislation also includes a new concept for Virginia in the development of a Technology Investment Board. The members are a mix of legislative and gubernatorial appointments who are experts in technology and finance. This Board will work with the Governor is shaping the technology agenda for the future

The next section of this workshop will discuss an award winning approach to technology reform in Fairfax County. Utilizing a majority of the concepts now underway on the state level, Fairfax provides an excellent detailed example of how to consider this approach. Fairfax County in Virginia consolidated their IT operations and set clear expectations in architecture and standards across the County enterprise. In addition, there are oversight processes for annual reviews of projects, formalized project reporting and governance and advisory committees to set direction. As an award winning e-government best practice, Fairfax County was often asked to provide information to legislative committees and study groups analyzing Virginia's new approach.

Lessons learned will be final discussion for the attendees. The most important lesson learned in a major overhaul of business practices needs to be inclusive of all stakeholders. The first initiative, to have the same look, feel and navigation on all state websites gives an early win and indicates to the citizens in Virginia that we sincerely want to improve their ability to do business on line. Anticipated in this effort in ongoing monitoring of citizen needs and suggestions. Another lesson is to expect the unexpected. The Secretary of Technology held “Town Hall” meetings and discovered several important challenges and opportunities from the working IT staff that will help bring technology into the global market in Virginia. This workshop hopes to share Virginia's vision for technology reform. The plan clearly establishes the direction and standardization for all state agencies is the new approach. How to do that and improve service delivery requires that all IT personnel be able to participate in the changes as they are planned.

Governor Warner's vision for Virginia is that the agencies must plan for the future and adapt to a changing economy. He believes, “the Commonwealth must utilize the potential of IT to make fundemental long-term changes in the way that government operates.” (Virginia Information Technology Symposium 2003) He believes it is time for Virginia gets its fair share in the growth and success of its participation in the global market of the future. He sees the Strategic Plan as being the first step to help develop Virginia as a major entity in the global economic marketplace of the future.

“Governor Warner is deeply committed to effective and efficient use of information technology by state government, a technology-friendly business climate across the Commonwealth, and economic developmewnt of Virginia's technology industry as a whole in the world marketplace.”. (The global digital economy and the bold dominion September 2002, page 2.) http://www.technology.state.va.us/TechVA/Reports/2002/govTechPlanExecSum_020914.pdf

Virginia is enriched by its history, but is embarking on a new future. From the “Old Dominion” to the “Bold Dominion”, technology reform will now move forward in a manner never experienced before by any state government in the country.

References

The global digital economy and the bold dominion, Commonwealth of Virginia strategic plan for technology (Executive Summary). (September 2002). Available at http://www.governor.state.va.us/Initiatives/Legis2003/FactSheets/Tech.htm.

Strategic Initiatives (2002) Retrieved from http://www.techplan.state.va.us/StratInit.cfm

Warner, Mark. (2003) Speech to the Virginia Information Technology Symposium. September 25, 2003.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

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