Study calls for Vermont to embrace IT

Reorganizing the information technology infrastructure in Vermont state government 'is the single greatest opportunity' to transform business processes, improve public service, support state employees and save money, according to a two-year independent review of the government.

The seven-member Vermont Institute on Government Effectiveness, which was created in 2003 by Gov. Jim Douglas, released its study last week detailing 20 recommendations, which could provide $20 million to $30 million in savings if implemented.

The recommendations heavily lean toward transforming the state's IT infrastructure and making greater use of the Web for common internal and external government services. While a few of the recommendations are new, the report indicated that several are already being acted upon by state agencies.

Among its recommendations, consolidating separate IT departments, platforms, e-mail systems, databases and network architecture into an enterprise model was the most significant. The state actually began an IT reorganization initiative launched in July 2004, which the report indicated is on target to be implemented by the end of this year.

The group also recommended creating a state-of-the-art state portal for e-government services via a public/private partnership. According to the report, the state spends between $2 million and $3 million to design, support and develop dozens of stand-alone Web sites.

'However, the availability of e-government services for state employees and citizens today is anemic,' the report states. 'In addition to fundamental service improvements, a Web based customer transaction can be nine times less expensive than a transaction or question fulfilled via an email or telephone response.'

Some other technology-related recommendations include:

' Establishing a credible and non-partisan strategic technology oversight and investment commission to address 'gross inefficiencies' in current IT management processes
' Making greater use of modern electronic conferencing and collaboration systems that could reduce employee time and travel expenses, which currently cost $15.8 million annually
' Evaluating Web-based travel services such as a state travel portal allowing round-the-clock access to employees and centralized accrual of travel mileage, among other benefits
' Web-enabling employee time and expense reports, which is part of a human capital management system expected to be implemented next year
' Creating a user-friendly Web site for new businesses to aggregate and share data among several agencies
' Web-enabling quarterly wage and unemployment insurance reports, which is actually scheduled for a spring 2006 launch
' Web-enabling applications and reports of regulated entities, such as banks, insurance companies and others, toward a paperless reporting system
' Modernizing document management workflows and capabilities
' Studying usage of Voice over IP communications between state employee campuses

'Right now our state is far behind our counter parts in the efficient use of technology, and this is unacceptable,' Douglas said in a press release. 'This report will form the basis of our new Information Technology Initiative, a plan that will allow us to prepare for, and investment in, more efficient technology systems and workforce training. This initiative will transform our state government into a 21st Century operation, dramatically increase productivity and produce a more effective and less costly government.'

The state has 9,800 full-time and temporary employees in 62 agencies, offices and business units and a $3.6 billion budget.

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