27 Apr Miszewski touts benefits of IT integration
Madison, Wis. – Matt Miszewski doesn’t look like a man on the hot seat, at least not in public.
The man governor Jim Doyle hired to manage the State of Wisconsin’s information technology consolidation gave a progress report Thursday on the troubled project, now the subject of a state audit, during a “Consolidation for Optimization” program at the Concourse Hotel.
Despite criticism of the results, Miszewski said the challenges facing the ambitious project are not unusual among state IT projects, and he received some support on that point from Richard Varn, a senior fellow at the Center of Digital Government. Varn is a former Iowa state employee who was fired after the governor of that state got cold feet at the first sign of trouble with an IT consolidation.
As the chief information officer for state government, Miszewski oversees its $400 million annual investment in IT, and its large-scale consolidation effort. The program is designed to bring cost savings and other efficiencies in the delivery of state services, but there have been more than a few hiccups in the agencies that are part of the initial implementation.
While nobody has placed an exact price tag on the errors, implementation problems and cost overruns on several large projects have cost state taxpayers millions of dollars that cannot be recouped, prompting the Legislative Audit Committee to authorize an audit.
Miszewski, a former labor attorney and IT business owner, acknowledged the concern, but he claimed that Wisconsin, by being among the first states to consolidate IT systems across state agencies, will save “an incredible amount of money.”
Consolidation, he said, would achieve $9 million in annual savings that could be applied elsewhere. While some people have suggested to him that $9 million isn’t that much savings, he asked the vendors and state employees in attendance how many teachers or policemen $9 million could buy. He also noted that the governor recently authorized spending $5 million to recruit biotech companies and researchers to the state, a move that could bring thousands of high-paying jobs here.
“What started this effort, clearly, was cost,” he said, citing the state’s $3.2 billion budget deficit in 2003.
Another goal of consolidation, he noted, is to revolutionize the delivery of government services in Wisconsin by “destroying the barriers to borderless government.” He said the project has changed the mindset of those inside the new Division of Enterprise Technology to one where the voice of the customer is “integrated into everything we do.”
Miszewski said the $29 million data center being constructed as part of the consolidation is near completion, and the staffing process for the DET is nearly complete. Nine agencies are part of the first wave of consolidation, and smaller agencies are migrating as well. “We will complete migration by July of next year, unless something changes,” he said.
Miszewski gave Governor Doyle credit for seeing the project through. “I’ve enjoyed incredible executive support, and I continue to enjoy incredible executive support,” he said.
Richard Varn could be excused if he is envious of that. In 2002, Varn was let go by Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack when a similar project encountered trouble there. Iowa, he said, is still moving slowly to consolidate its technology systems, whereas the effort in Wisconsin, despite its problems, enjoys bipartisan support. “I had one big difference,” Varn said. “My governor not only blinked, he cut and ran when things got difficult.”
Varn said what Wisconsin is experiencing is not unusual, and that the state would benefit from having a strong central sponsor in the governor. Among the proven benefits of a state IT consolidation, he said, are shared services, more cost effective e-forms, and collaborative tools. “Doing this [consolidation] is a ‘duh,” he stated.
More about Wisconsin’s IT projects
• Auditors outline what they want to know about state IT projects
• Audit of multi-million dollar state IT spending will proceed
• Wisconsin Virtual Academy holds info sessions for new year
• Oracle out, Microsoft in for state e-mail project