California State IT Is A Monumental Disaster - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
1/29/2009
11:09 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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California State IT Is A Monumental Disaster

I love California -- I swear I do -- but to call the state's current IT situation a monumental disaster would be to insult the words "monumental disaster." Despite a $40B state deficit, California is nevertheless planning nine "strategic" projects scheduled to consume 58 years and $3.6B. Come take a look into the abyss.

I love California -- I swear I do -- but to call the state's current IT situation a monumental disaster would be to insult the words "monumental disaster." Despite a $40B state deficit, California is nevertheless planning nine "strategic" projects scheduled to consume 58 years and $3.6B. Come take a look into the abyss.You would think that with California in a financial crisis so severe that tax returns are being withheld (at least temporarily), there's no way they'd try to sneak through even one multiyear, nine-figure, big-bang IT project, right? Well, technically, that's true -- they're not trying to sneak one through; they've got nine of those reality-distorting black holes in the works, and here they are with client, duration of sentence, and public-money requirement:

  • Financial system: 11.8 years, $1.6B
  • Strategic Offender System: 5.7 years, $416M
  • Home Support Services: 10 years, $298M
  • Automated Welfare System: 3.8 years, $263M
  • Child Welfare System: 7.3 years, $254M
  • Motor Vehicles IT Modernization: 6.8 years, $207M
  • Consolidate IT Infrastructure: 2.9 years, $191M
  • HR System: 6.1 years, $179M
  • ERP for Prisons: 4.5 years, $176M
  • Just to assure you: there are no misprints in those figures above -- that is indeed 11.8 YEARS, and 10 YEARS, and a total of $3,600,000,000. So I think it's only right that as we awake from our California dreamin', we should hear from plucky California CIO Teri Takai, who was recruited by California from Michigan, where as state CIO she achieved some great things. A week ago, Takai posted a note on the state's Web site under the heading "Information technology has a bright future in California" in which she said in part:

    "By creating a more consolidated IT organization, we can better manage our equipment, personnel, and purchasing while optimizing the use of technology and ultimately providing more services for the people of California."

    Ms. Takai, best of luck with your efforts -- I applaud your courage. But I also think you should be more honest with the great people of your wonderful state and level with them about the chances of success some of these projects have, and about the inevitable revisions in budgets and priorities you'll have to make, and about the toll the state's and the country's fiscal crisis will have on your ability to deliver, no matter how sincere and focused your efforts might be.

    You need to make your way with not just courage and intensity but also with respect for your fellow citizens and the burdens you are asking them to shoulder -- and if you choose to manage those expectations with honesty and transparency, you and California's many millions will be better off for it.

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