When State IT Is Handed Over to the Private Sector

The Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) manages the delivery of IT infrastructure and managed network services to 1,300 state and local government entities across the state of Georgia. GTA promotes an enterprise approach to managing technology services by establishing statewide policies, standards and guidelines based on industry best practices and federal requirements. GTA develops and manages the state’s official Website, which provides information and services from more than 115 state agencies and links to city and county government Websites.

Dean Johnson is the Chief Operating Officer for the GTA. Johnson has co-led the move to privatize infrastructure and managed network services for the state of Georgia since 2008. He is currently leading an effort to evolve the current operating and service delivery models to take full advantage of the strong foundation built over the past six years and apply lessons learned along with today’s industry best practices in outsourcing. CIO Insight contributor Peter High discusses with Johnson how he helped save the state $181 million, how he assisted in laying the groundwork for privatizing certain IT services and his take on big data initiatives.

CIO Insight: How do you work with the CIOs in various jurisdictions across the state?

Dean Johnson: GTA has established several councils and forums, structured specifically to invite CIOs’ input, engage in discussion about solutions and offer information about available services. We meet regularly with agency CIOs and have found that building and maintaining positive working relationships with the customers we serve and understanding their business needs to be one of the keys to our success.

CIO Insight: You also helped spearhead the creation of Georgia Enterprise Technology Services, saving the state $181 million in the process. What was the idea behind this?

Johnson: A comprehensive assessment by an independent third party in 2007 documented alarming shortcomings in the state’s ability to comply with IT best practices, refresh aging equipment and software, and address growing threats from hackers and cyber-criminals. In addition, GTA and other state agencies found themselves unable to compete with the private sector in recruiting and retaining knowledgeable and experienced technicians. The third-party assessment recommended outsourcing daily operations to private-sector service providers.

GTA went to the market in 2008 to source IT infrastructure services and managed network services on behalf of the state of Georgia. The Georgia Enterprise Technology Services (GETS) program sought to transform the state’s IT operations into a modern day, well-run IT enterprise by turning to private-sector leaders in technology service delivery.

The GETS program has achieved its goals and objectives, and we remain on track to save the state $181 million over the life of the contracts. We have modernized the state’s IT infrastructure to allow better management of IT resources to meet the service obligations to Georgia’s citizens. We have a secure, reliable, recoverable enterprise operating environment which we can continue to enhance and mature.

Even as we achieved success, over the life of the contracts, technology has continued to evolve and change in a dramatic way as have the business needs of our customers. As an example, cloud computing did not exist as a viable technology service for the public sector in 2007 when GTA laid the groundwork for our privatization initiative. Mobile computing of the kind we take for granted today remained in its infancy. As these and other innovative technology services emerged and proved their business value, GTA found itself constrained in the ability to respond and adapt to these changes in the technology marketplace.

To make it easier to adopt new and cost-effective technologies more quickly, in 2014, GTA decided to modify its service delivery model, launching the Services Integration Initiative (SII). The SII involves dividing the technology services we deliver into smaller, manageable pieces (called service towers) and then managing these individual service towers in an integrated way on our shared services delivery platform. As part of the SII, GTA recognized the need for an experienced Multisourcing Service Integrator (MSI) who is responsible for coordinating and overseeing the delivery of technology services to state agencies across multiple service towers through multiple service providers. Through a competitive bidding process, GTA introduced the role of an MSI and realigned existing IT services contracts to facilitate transition to the new model of service delivery. The first stage of transition is to be complete in August 2015. Ensuring faster availability of innovative technology services to state agencies isn’t the only goal of the SII. Our new model will also drive continuous improvement in service delivery while bringing greater transparency in both costs and consumption.

CIO Insight: I know that big data initiatives have been used to identify further savings opportunities. Please highlight your approach to big data analytics.

Johnson: The most important big data initiative involving analytics is our work to ensure the accuracy of our asset management and configuration management data that underpins our enterprise service desk and feeds our chargeback system. GTA hired Blazent to help us validate and verify the data. We have data feeds coming from 19 different data sources; all of this data is being leveraged, compared and analyzed to ensure its integrity. The use of Blazent tools within our shared services delivery environment has helped our asset management data and configuration management data become the source of truth within the key systems we rely on to meet the needs of our customers. Our Multisourcing Service Integrator (MSI) is using this data to strengthen the foundation for the enterprise service desk and chargeback system. Having accurate and reliable data enables GTA to proceed with confidence as we introduce new services.

CIO Insight: What trends particularly excite you as you look several years out?

Johnson: For nearly seven years, GTA has been laser-focused on transforming the state’s IT infrastructure and managed network services environment and has developed a more secure, reliable, recoverable enterprise as a result. We have moved from a Cap-Ex to an Op-Ex model and we have created greater transparency and visibility into state spend for the IT services we provide. We now have established a well-run, modernized enterprise that is currently meeting the IT business needs of the state. We are now taking full advantage of the solid, stable foundation and creating much more flexibility and adaptability within the GETS services we provide. We are establishing a shared services delivery platform where the day-to-day tactical operational duties will be handled by our Multisourcing Service Integrator. GTA will continue to focus on the strategic duties of sourcing the right services to meet the ever-changing business needs of our agency customers while staying in line with the market, both in terms of solution and price. Through proper operational governance, GTA will govern, manage and oversee the services we source to ensure we maintain proper alignment with the business and the market. The future looks bright as GTA continues to collaborate through partnerships with both the agencies we serve and the companies we hire to deliver the services on the GETS platform.

Peter High is President of Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. His latest book, Implementing World Class IT Strategy, has just been released by Wiley Press/Jossey-Bass. He is also the author of World Class IT: Why Businesses Succeed When IT Triumphs. Peter moderates the Forum on World Class IT podcast series. Follow him on Twitter @WorldClassIT.

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