Virginia says yes to seat management

Virginia says yes to seat management

Virginia Secretary of Technology Donald Upson says agencies will recognize value.

By Claire E. House
GCN Staff

Virginia is initiating the first statewide seat management program.

The commonwealth is releasing a request for proposals this month for a contract that will let agencies outsource cradle-to-grave PC equipment and services for a flat per-user fee with built-in refresh periods.

'We want to let all employees in government have the most modern technology that they can have,' Virginia Secretary of Technology Donald Upson said. The program will also help with budget planning because seat management moves PC costs out of the capital request category and into the operating budget, he said.

Virginia will likely select two to four seat vendors'enough to promote competition but still support volume pricing, Upson said. Contracts will be open to all branches of state government as well as local governments. Agencies will not be required to use seat management, but Upson said he thinks they will see its value.

The estimated annual cost is $1,200 per seat for hardware, software, help desk service, training, repair and periodic replacement, according to the Seat Management Workgroup of the state's Council on Technology Services.

The group studied seat management for a year and recommended the statewide program in a September report.

The price would likely cover a typical setup, neither top-of-the-line nor bare-bones. Agencies could choose different packages to suit their needs. An agency with engineers who rely on computer-aided design programs, for instance, could pay a higher seat rate for equipment with more power and shorter refresh rates than the agency's word processor users would need.

Gov. Jim Gilmore last month transferred authority over information technology procurement to the Office of the Secretary of Technology from the Office of the Secretary of Administration, one of several steps the state is taking to support the program.

Upson's office will also create a Seat Management Office to direct the program.

Upson has requested $7.2 million from the general fund to begin the program, an amount that at the estimated per-seat rate would cover 10 percent of the state's PCs for two years.

Three more years

The state Transportation Department ran a one-year seat pilot that ended in October, and it plans to renew its contract with vendor Halifax Corp. of Alexandria, Va., for another three years.

'It's been a success,'' said Peter Kolakowski, VDOT assistant commissioner for planning, research and technology.

VDOT calculated a $4,500 annual cost of ownership for PCs when it supported desktop PC services. It calculated a $1,500 cost under its seat program, which covered 1,500 of its 7,500 PCs in three of its nine districts. VDOT is awaiting an independent cost tally from META Group Inc. of Stamford, Conn.

'The big thing is, even if we're off by 100 percent on the cost savings, it's still a winning situation,'' said Kolakowski, who was chairman of the Council on Technology Services workgroup.

VDOT lost no IT staff members as a result of the program, which freed programmers and database developers to concentrate on their work rather than spend time unloading PCs from boxes, installing software and answering user distress calls, Kolakowski said.

The biggest challenges were working out small procedural issues and managing the cultural impact of the change, he said.

For more information about the program, check out the Council on Technology Services workgroup report at /www.sotech.state.va.us/cots/pubs/seatmgt1.pdf.

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