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The State Budget and Structural Reform, Part 6

Sep 04, 2015
Editor’s Note: Throughout this year’s debate on the FY 2016 - FY 2017 biennial budget, the MetroHartford Alliance advocated for structural reforms that would establish a fiscal foundation supporting private sector job retention and growth as well as capital investment. In communications to policymakers and public forums on the budget, the Alliance continually stressed the need to adopt lasting, real reforms to bring sustainability to our state’s budget, such as those developed by the Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century

We are encouraged that the budget implementer includes language that directs the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management to review the reports of the Institute and submit recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature’s Appropriations and Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committees.

In the interest of providing more details on the structural reforms for which the Alliance has advocated, we are sharing regular updates with our Investors.

Improving the Strategic Use of Technology by the State of Connecticut 

As Connecticut and other states look for ways to provide cheaper, faster, better and more efficient services to its residents and businesses, information technology is a critically important way to move ahead in an era of limited financial resources. The state’s current efforts are a patchwork of works in progress at best; we are not keeping pace with technological innovation or consumer expectations. Maintaining the status quo is not enough; the cost of not investing in a statewide strategic roadmap, good IT governance and enabling architectures could be far higher for the future of our State and its citizens.

At times, Connecticut has been innovative, creative and resilient in adopting sustainable and strategic technology. Because our State adopted certain technologies relatively early - and given the rapid pace of technological advancement paired with fiscal constraints - our legacy systems now need “next generation” solutions.

How Does Connecticut Stack Up?

Connecticut’s IT infrastructure consists of a wide array of systems, many of which are aging and no longer meet modern-day business needs. These vast decentralized systems are complex, fragmented and very challenging to manage securely. They often cannot work and communicate effectively with each other. Historically, funding for IT projects and initiatives has been approached at the program or agency level, inhibiting the ability to promote collaboration between common business functions that often span several agencies and/or programs.

Connecticut’s Efforts to Date

Our State has made significant enterprise investments in recent years in a number of areas such as:

• LEAN process improvement to eliminate waste and increase efficiency
• Establishing unified communications that incorporate video conferencing, messaging and other interactive services
• Creating a centralized data management center in Groton
• Completing an 8,800-mile fiber optic network that brings high-speed networks to public safety and educational institutions

Additionally, the Commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) is charged with developing, maintaining and publishing an annual Information and Telecommunications Systems Strategic Plan. This plan is designed to provide a level of voice and/or data communications service across state agencies as well as to the public.  It is also designed to provide, in the event of an emergency, immediate voice and data communications necessary to support state agency functions.  While it addresses important communications issues, Connecticut’s Information Technology Strategic Plan is not grounded in any holistic, statewide information technology strategy.  

Recommendations

The Connecticut Institute for the 21st Century offers several recommendations to improve the strategic use of technology by the State of Connecticut: 

Elevate the Chief Information Officer position to report to the Governor, providing responsibility and clear authority to lead all of Connecticut’s technology strategy - from workforce and budget to portfolio management and data management across all agencies. 

Leverage industry expertise by forming a legislative committee augmented with private sector participation to focus on information and related technologies.

Develop a strategic plan for the State of Connecticut that assesses where we are today, defines where we will be in five years, details a plan to address gaps and establishes an ongoing planning process.

Implement an IT workforce management planning process that includes a skills inventory, skills assessment, retirement planning, skill needs, a staffing plan and training needs.

Continue to invest in and centralize key enterprise systems such as telecom, networking, e-government, and data centers and enabling processes.

Implement innovative IT funding models whereby initiatives funded from the IT Investment Fund are evaluated against alternative funding sources and/or the opportunity to partner/collaborate with public and private entities including other municipalities, states, academia and business.

Develop and implement a performance management system to measure Connecticut’s IT investments.  Key metrics should include business effectiveness, efficiency of service delivery, cost containment, customer satisfaction, access/transparency/self-service and agility.

Implement a formal, transparent portfolio management system with timeline, costs and accountability.

Engage local government to ensure that investments in fast, reliable networks, hosting and other technology-related services are leveraged across Connecticut’s cities and towns.

The Time to Act Is Now

The state cannot delay in taking action. Connecticut is well positioned to capitalize on its existing investments and its significant progress implementing enterprise-wide solutions. Our State must adopt holistic, collaborative and integrated approaches to IT in order to meet the growing demands for services while constraining cost. Adaptive technology will enable Connecticut and its partners to meet current challenges, better engage with the public and deliver services in accordance with state policy goals.

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