Brad Feld

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Transforming the State of Colorado’s Information Technology Services

Apr 27, 2009
Category Places

After Bill Ritter was elected governor of Colorado in 2006, I was asked to be a member of the IT transition team.  We had about a month to review the current state of affairs with regard to broadband, the Colorado IT structure and strategy, and to recommend a CIO candidate. 

I’d never been on a transition team before so I found it to be an interesting experience.  I don’t remember the number of transition teams (I have the number 16 in my head) – they were all busy trying to collect, assimilate, and understand what existed, put together clear recommendations that the new Governor and his staff could build on, while trying to separate a bunch of signal from noise of the outgoing administration.

I was part of a group of about 30.  I knew nothing about broadband policy (which I later found out was in the extremely capable hands of Phil Weiser) so I focused my energy on the State of Colorado IT systems and on recommending a CIO.

Both turned out to be easy to deal with.  I was part of a task force that reviewed over 50 credible CIO applications, interviewed a dozen CIO candidates and had an easy choice in selecting Mike Locatis.  Mike had previously been the CIO of the City of Denver and had plenty of private sector experience; he stood out as a uniquely qualified candidate. 

Assessing the State of Colorado IT systems was equally straightforward – they were a disaster.  The entire IT organization was completely decentralized by agency.  Each agency had the equivalent of their own CIO that had purchasing authority up to $100,000.  The was minimal central planning and coordination, no purchasing leverage, and no integrated strategy across all the agencies.  I felt bad for the incumbent CIO – it was a classic case of all the downsides of decentralization with none of the benefits.  Oh – and this was written into the law so you couldn’t just reorganize the IT organization – the law actually had to be changed to centralize the State CIO’s authority.

We recommended the obvious – change the law to centralize everything under a single CIO.  Being government, this took a year, but it got done.  Then the real work began as Mike and his team went from talking about IT consolidation to actually doing it.

They’ve got a bunch of it under their belt and are now looking forward to the next wave of ideas around modernization of many of the IT systems and approaches.  Like most of the country, Colorado is working through their budget shortfalls to economic leverage on any level – including at the raw systems level – is a good thing.  Mike and his team recently put out Solicitation RFI-TK-003-09 which is an RFI for Transforming the State of Colorado’s Common/Shared IT Services.

As the cliche goes, you need to walk before you run; this RFI gives companies developing innovative Cloud Computing approaches (e.g. Google and Amazon) as well as numerous entrepreneurial companies an opportunity to get in front of Mike and his team to weigh in on the forward directions of the State of Colorado’s IT infrastructure.