Virginia's IT reform plan heads for second stage

Virginia will conduct a statewide desktop management pro-gram covering about 60,000 seats, CIO Lemuel Stewart says.

Virginia's plan to consolidate and reorganize agency IT operations statewide
is gaining momentum.

The Virginia Information Technologies Agency will launch several ambitious new projects during the second phase of the reform program, launched by Gov. Mark Warner and the Virginia General Assembly with 2003 legislation.

In June of last year, three legacy agencies were folded into VITA: the IT and Technology Planning departments and Virginia IP Net.

This year, VITA officials moved ahead, integrating the IT work of smaller agencies by January, consolidating midsize state agencies by July and setting a course to absorb larger ones by this coming January. The reorganization will merge the IT operations of 91 agencies.

By January, VITA will be responsible for organizations at 1,497 locations, provide IT services to more than 60,000 users, operate more than 3,000 servers and employ almost 1,300.

'After the consolidation, we will kick off the second phase, which is the transformation,' said CIO Lemuel Stewart. 'Depending on which area you look at, that will take one to five years.' One of the most ambitious goals of the transformation will be to build two new data centers. One will be near Richmond, and a backup center is slated for a rural area.

The transformation plan calls for creation of a new statewide customer care center, likely via the 2002 Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act.

The act lets VITA launch five- to seven-year projects with vendors, while the state retains the right to end a project at any time.

'We will do a statewide desktop management program covering about 60,000 seats, certainly with a private partner,' Stewart said.

VITA has not yet chosen a vendor for the consolidation of the state's six e-mail systems into one. Agency of- ficials also plan to consolidate the state's approximately 18 geographic information systems into one, Stewart said.

'We are building an enterprise GIS that will have all the statewide [aerial] photography and will be overlaid with [data layers of] roads, lakes, rivers and where all the critical facilities are, such as hospitals,' he said.

'The statewide IT budget is just about $1 billion,' Stewart said. 'That's split almost evenly between education and administration.'

VITA funds most of its activities through an internal service fund replenished by charging state agencies for IT services. The agency also receives grants, such as a recent $600,000 federal grant for a statewide emergency alert system.

As VITA officials corral the state's IT activities into one agency, they also have been finding 'quick hits' to generate savings in the short run. Stewart said renegotiating service contracts to exert VITA's consolidated buying power was one such quick hit.

Last month, the agency announced a new communications services contract with Verizon Communications Inc. of New York. The $135 million deal promises to reduce the state's telecommunications expenses by $33 million over its 71-month term, officials said.

Although a major motive for Virginia's IT reforms is the need to save money, Stewart has assured state employees that their jobs will be safe. At a recent meeting to explain the reforms to VITA workers, he concluded, 'Change is inevitable. Don't fear it, understand it.'

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