In Vermont, IT shops work autonomously

In Vermont, IT shops work autonomously

Assistant CIO says state's mission is to improve services at an efficient cost

By Claire E. House

GCN Staff


Vermont agencies and departments are considering the feasibility of Web applications and electronic commerce options as technology rapidly changes state government, says Bob West, the state's assistant chief information officer.


Bob West, Vermont's assistant chief information officer, has been involved in state systems for more than 20 years. He's worked at several agencies, including the Personnel Department.

West has been assistant CIO for two years and reports to state CIO Patricia Urban, who was appointed by the state secretary of administration. He talked with GCN/State & Local about the state's systems plans.


WEST: The Chief Information Officer's Office provides oversight to agency information technology departments, but we don't have direct control over IT budgets. We serve in a regulatory, advisory function for the state.

We are, however, involved with all of the IT projects. We review the requests for proposals, we're involved with the contracts, and we sign off on all of the projects.

Under state statute, we produce the IT Five-Year Plan each January. The plan is based on input from the agency departments.

We also testify in front of the General Assembly about IT. And since it's only myself, CIO Patricia Urban and an administrative assistant, we're a lean and mean shop.

There's a group called the IRM Advisory Council that meets monthly. It's made up of people from various agencies, and Urban is the chairwoman. The group sets the policy and standards for information, whether computerized or not.

Central shop







Who's In Charge


Patricia Urban

Chief Information Officer

Bob West

Assistant Chief Information Officer

IT SPENDING







Source: Vermont Chief
Information Officer's Office





The Communications and IT Division, within the Buildings and General Services Department, is Vermont's centralized mainframe shop. It does other work for departments such as setting up LANs, Microsoft Windows NT systems and e-mail clients. But it's just like any other company when it comes to that additional work. It bids for the work just like any consultant out there would.

Most agencies handle their own IT. We have a total of about 230 IT professionals who work for the state of Vermont, and they're dispersed throughout the departments.

That's something that happened actually when PCs started to become prevalent. Many of our applications went from the mainframe to PCs and client-server systems, and it was much easier to do that work at the local level.

State of efficiency

Our mission has always been to try to improve services for state government and our citizens'and with some cost efficiency.

We have several IT projects going on.

We're about to launch a financial management system from PeopleSoft Inc. [of Pleasanton, Calif.], which will replace a 20-year-old accounting system. It will handle procurement and budget forecasting as well. The Department of Finance and Management expects to implement the system by June 30 of 2001.

The Libraries Department is going through an upgrade. It's replacing all its older VAX terminals with an NT system.

Our Personnel Department had a PeopleSoft Human Resources Management System implemented in 1994. This year, it plans to upgrade the system to run current releases and provide some additional reporting.

The Tax Department is in the last phase of implementing an Advantage revenue system from American Management Systems Inc. [of Fairfax, Va.].

The Corrections Department has been running primarily a character-based terminal application for years; it's going to a graphical user interface system. It's actually deploying a thin-client solution this year using MetaFrame from Citrix Systems Inc. [of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.]. The Health Department is switching to thin clients, as well.










MAJOR DEPARTMENTS


Education'Supports state education

Employment and Training'Handles work force support operations

Motor Vehicles'Handles vehicle and license registrations and renewals

Social Welfare'Supports family and Medicaid services

Taxes'Handles revenue operations


MAJOR PROGRAMS


Digital dial-up'Provides Integrated Services Digital Network dial-up service to state agencies

Financial management'Will handle accounting, procurement and budgeting

GOVnet'Wires state agencies

K12net'Links schools

Personnel'Will upgrade personnel system



One of the things we also do in the CIO's Office is manage a statewide network for government, GOVnet, and one for schools, K12net. Most of the lines are at 10-Mbps or T1 speeds. Many of our schools have 56-Kbps right up through T1 frame relay connections.

We've just implemented an Integrated Services Digital Network dial-up system for state government. It uses the new IP Routing Service from Bell Atlantic Corp.

We have always offered dial-up solutions, but until this point they were analog.

Each of the departments pays a certain percentage to support GOVnet, and that funds the service. It's statewide, so it's a local call for anyone who's an end user on our system.

As a statewide initiative, a lot of the agencies and departments are looking at Web applications and electronic commerce to see what's going to make sense to them. We hope that within the next couple of years, all of our applications will be Web-based.

Obviously e-commerce is the way of the future, and the Internet and intranets are certainly the easiest ways to deploy applications today.

Technology is going to change rapidly over the next few years, and we're keeping an eye on what's up and coming.

Technologies such as wireless communications and digital broadcasting are going to change the way we do business.

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