IT consolidation on the menu in cash-strapped Minn.

Legislative commission prescribes shared services for financial ills

Faced with a bruising revenue forecast, a expanding elderly population and skyrocketing debt, the state of Minnesota must commit to the wholesale re-engineering of its bureaucratic systems and services, a legislative commission recommended this week.

The Commission on Service Innovation, set up in May to explore ways to streamline a government that stands to lose $1 billion in revenue over the next two years, said the state should take a series of steps that depend in large part on information technology to reverse what it called a financially unsustainable way of doing business.

The panel’s recommendations include the use of shared services and the consolidation of IT operations, utility services and specialized applications. The shared services plan should be led by one agency and driven by a series of financial incentives, it recommended.


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The commission's overall goal is to provide a plan to “re-engineer the delivery of state and local government services, including the realignment of service delivery by region and proximity, the use of new technologies, shared facilities, centralized information technologies, and other means of improving efficiency,” according to the legislation setting up the panel.

In addition recommending more efficient use of IT, the panel also suggested smarter budgeting tactics, including “budgeting for outcomes,” by focusing on “delivering the most bang for the buck for every dollar spent on government services.”

The commission’s plan arrives as the state is well into a severe financial predicament. In 2009, a state financial analyst predicated that, on its current track, the state would be forced to nearly eliminate all areas of spending except health care and K-12 education by 2035.

"The challenge we face is not just to balance the budget, especially the current one, but to find sustainable, long-term solutions to delivering public services that meet our citizens' expectations for price [cost] and quality," the report states. "Transformative governing, innovative delivery of services and increased efficiency are necessary in order to not only extricate our state from its current fiscal trend but also to create lasting, meaningful change."


 

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Paul McCloskey is editor-in-chief of GCN. Follow him on Twitter: @Paul_GCN.

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