Consolidation saves millions for Wisconsin

Consolidation saves millions for Wisconsin

CIO says training efforts and use of latest technology help keep workers

By Trudy Walsh

GCN Staff

When Sari King left Oklahoma for Wisconsin more than 20 years ago, she didn't think she'd stay longer than five years. She says she is still not used to the winters, but Wisconsin presented her with such great opportunities that she stayed. Her first job working for Wisconsin was as an entry-level programmer, a four-month appointment that turned into a career.

Sari King, Wisconsin's CIO, recently discovered Cobol code that she had written in 1982 still running on a state system.

King has been chief information officer for the Information Technology Services Division since 1997. She received a bachelor's of science degree in mathematics from Oklahoma City University in 1973.

KING: We had a problem with one of our online environments a few months ago. We just couldn't figure it out. We went back and looked at the Cobol code and found that it had disabled the security coding. It turned out that it was code I had programmed back in 1982. I guess that's why I'm in management now'it got me out of coding.

When I started as a programmer, we had three data centers: the Transportation Department; the Industry, Labor and Human Relations Department; and the Health and Family Services Department. Ernst & Young of New York did a study of our data centers, and recommended that we consolidate our three centers into one. This developed into the Information Technology Services Division.

One thing that sets the ITS Division apart from other state organizations is our procurement authority. We have a special authority that allows us to buy what we call 'just in time.' We don't have to plan for computer upgrades a year in advance, like we used to. We can put out our requirements, get bids on the street and have a new computer on the desk in four weeks.


Sari King

Administrator, Information Technology Services

Dennis Vickers

Deputy Administrator

Werner Gade

Director, Customer Technology Services Bureau

Ron Zweifel

Director, Technical Support Bureau

Suzanne Stoutt

Director, Administrative Services Bureau


Source: Wisconsin Information Technology Services Division

Wisconsin doesn't have an overarching chief information officer like most states. Each agency that has application programs has its own CIO. The ITS Division provides Web services, but some agencies have their own Web servers.

Get things done

We're the operational arm of computing in Wisconsin state government. We offer mainframe computing and server services. We support computer services for 25 small agencies, like the Educational Aid Board, the State Fair Park and the Secretary of State.

We went through a standardization process recently. Every system now has the same look and feel. We're all using the same products and tools'DB2, IBM WebSphere, Oracle.

We're anticipating saving $1 million to $2 million per year as a result of all these consolidations. That's in addition to the more than $11 million per year we're already saving now from consolidating our hardware and software. In our original purchase of CPUs, we were paying $38,000 for a million instructions per second. Now it's less than $1,000 per MIPS.

I don't mean to brag, but we haven't had much of a problem with recruitment and retention. I think it's partly because we stay very current with technology. We also put a lot of money into training. Wisconsin made a large effort to raise IT salaries. Are we equal with the private sector? No, but our efforts helped.

Wisconsin has two big cities, Madison and Milwaukee, then a lot of suburbs, like Eau Claire. Then there are a lot of rural areas. That's one of our challenges, reaching those rural areas. One of our chief concerns is the digital divide.

As we prepare for the e-world, security is a big focus. We're also concentrating on our networks and digital signatures. We're retrofitting a mirror site for by splitting two processors between two sites and mirroring the data.

We've spent a little more than $4 million a year on IBM software'operating systems, the online environment, application tools and our current focus on IBM's WebSphere with Java. We're heavy users of WebSphere.

Software changes so rapidly. Moving at Internet speeds is a real challenge.

Major divisionsMajor programs
Network Management'Plans, manages and coordinates connectivity to the state's data communications network, including hardware and software

Administrative Services'Develops and manages the Information Technology Services Division's budget and billing rates

Technical Support'Manages the ITS Division's software, plans hardware configurations for state agencies and manages online data storage

Customer Technology Services'Monitors customer satisfaction, develops service level agreements and operates a 24-hour comper center
Child Support Enforcement System'Monitors status of parents who fall short on child support payments, using an IBM System/390 server and IBM's WebSphere

Unemployment System'Disburses and tracks unemployment payments using an Amdahl 5995 mainframe

Driver's License System'Also runs on the Amdahl 5995 mainframe

Web Services'Provides Web services and support to state agencies and the site


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