San Diego County banks on outsourcing

San Diego County banks on outsourcing

Business investments, IT work force shortage are two reasons

By Donna Young

GCN Staff

State and municipal governments are watching Tom Boardman and San Diego County.

The county has just completed the first year of a seven-year, $644 million outsourcing contract with Computer Sciences Corp. and an alliance of several subcontractors.

Boardman, chief technology officer, was hired by the county last year to oversee the outsourcing partnership.

In addition to working several years in the academic field of information technology, he recently led one of the largest private outsourcing projects for the American Automobile Association of Northern California.

BOARDMAN: For San Diego County, outsourcing has been the most efficient way for the county to provide its agencies with information technology and telecommunications services.


Tom Boardman

Chief Technology Officer

Ariana Aimajan

Information Technology Manager, Land Use and Environment Group

Jerry Coleman

IT Manager, Health and Human Services Agency

Jeff Grissom

IT Manager, Community Services

Harold Kosakoff

IT Manager, Superior Court

Casey McGehee

IT Manager, Financial and General Government Group

John Pingel

'IT Manager, Public Safety Group


Source: San Diego County Information Technology Office

Virtually no other government has attempted to outsource on the scale that we do.

If we are successful, other counties and states will follow and outsource their IT. But if we fail, it will be at least five years until another government entity gets up the courage to try it again.

One reason it became necessary for San Diego County to outsource is the difficulty government has in attracting and retaining good IT people.

Jobs and raises

The contract we have with Computer Sciences Corp. guaranteed our county employees a job with CSC or one of the other partners for the next two years in addition to giving them a big salary increase.

Tom Boardman, San Diego County chief technology officer, oversees the largest local government technology privatization deal ever.

But the major reason outsourcing works best for the county is because an outside firm is willing to invest. CSC and the other partners invested $180 million up front to get the county 14,000 new PCs, 21,000 new phones, new e-mail and voice systems and new human resources, payroll and finance systems. And they are doing this all within two and a half years.

There is no way we could have gone to the County Board of Commissioners and asked for $180 million to replace all of this equipment with taxpayers' dollars.

Another benefit to the county is that day-to-day maintenance activities now run more efficiently because a private company has experts to deal with problems. We no longer have to call in outside help and spend time and money for maintenance.

Our underlying objective with the project is to free up money so we can move every county service possible on to the Web.

But with that, we need good people to help us build the site. So far we offer online payment of property taxes and purchasing of some permits. You can see who is in jail from our Web site.

Our transition has gone fairly smoothly so far. What helped was how we structured our request for proposals. We specified exactly the service level we expected from our vendors in the RFP. By doing that from the beginning, the contract negotiations moved quickly. The entire process from board approval to contract signing took less than a year.

Keep moving

Time is your enemy in this process. You have to move fast. A year is the right target.

One thing we should have done differently in the beginning process was to include help desk calls as part of the contract. We originally set it up to have the help desk be provided as a separate billed service.

But then we discovered some of the county agencies weren't using the help desk because they wanted to save money. We renegotiated this part of the contract with our partners.

The other advice I have for government is to take the time to quantify every service that is already being provided before you convert over to a private company. You need to be able to compare and see progress.

People have short-term memory when it comes to remembering how things were done in the past. And people also expect something new to be perfect.

You have to have a record to account for how things were done in the past to be able to measure anything new.

Major divisionsMajor programs
Application architecture'Determines the direction of applications, including business value analysis of systems retirement, replacement and retooling

Web site'Provides county residents with online information and services

WAN and telecommunications'Connects county departments and employees throughout the region

LAN'Provides a common operating environment

Information security-Furnishes electronic security and deploys a comprehensive disaster recovery program

Business re-engineering-Migrates services to new platforms and ensures lower back-end costs for services

Enterprise resource planning-Replaces aging systems with new systems

Land Use and Environment Group'Supports county employees engaged in land use planning, environmental health, public works, roads and other projects

Health and Human Services Agency'Provides computer services for welfare, aging and health agencies

Community Services Group'Furnishes systems support
for the county's animal control agency, housing and community development, facilities services, vehicle services, voter registration and libraries

Superior Court'Provides computing services for the court system

Finance and General Government Group-Supports business functions such as auditor, administration, legal issues, human resources, treasury, tax collection and public records

Public Safety Group-Responsible for support of computer systems of law enforcement and justice agencies

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