Leading the Way
The State of Delaware has a groundbreaking approach to technology.
by Carol Hildebrand, August 2009
The State of Delaware’s overhaul of its technology organization and infrastructure may not have netted it a Kentucky Derby win, but there are similarities between the state and Mine That Bird, the horse that thundered from the back of the pack to win this year’s Run for the Roses. In 2003, the state ranked 49th out of 50 states in the Brookings Institution’s annual assessment of state and federal electronic government initiatives. In 2007 and 2008, it ranked #1.
“At the heart of the State of Delaware’s success is its ability to build stakeholder consensus that successful electronic government is not just about buying and installing computers,” says Harry Ghuman, Oracle’s group vice president for Industry Strategy. “Rather, it involves actually redesigning the way a government works and efficiently executing projects within that vision while actively managing change.”
Many government initiatives run up against the reality of fragmented IT systems that have grown up in departmental silos. Then, too, the electoral process introduces an element of uncertainty because political pressures and inexperienced civil servants can play havoc with project specifications and implementation. “Costs spiral, disillusionment grows, and the project either limps to life or is expensively buried,” says Ghuman.
That was the situation Delaware faced in the early years of this decade. “We had a lot of projects historically that were false starts, with multiple project plans and fragmented reporting structures that led to information silos that cost millions to build,” says Lynn Hersey-Miller, the chief program officer for the State of Delaware. “As we started looking at it from an enterprise level, it became clear that we needed to implement an approach that concentrated on constituent service through an integrated technology and business process strategy.” In short, instead of a more granular technology-driven strategy, Delaware’s IT team looked at its plans through the lens of how best to serve Delaware’s citizens.
Reorganization Starts at the Top
The first step was to ensure that an integrated strategy could be implemented statewide—a tall order for an organization characterized by heavy IT staff turnover and isolated and decentralized IT groups. To succeed, Delaware’s IT strategy team needed to make sure the state would commit to a long-term program.
“Because such large transformations take a long time, organizations not only must have a clear vision but also must be able to continue to build long term,” says Ghuman. Delaware addressed this in a number of ways. First, in 2001, the state centralized IT operations in a newly formed Department of Technology and Information (DTI), charged with identifying and executing key integration projects. The idea was to avoid redundancy and noncompliant IT spending through a centralized and independent agency. According to Hersey-Miller, the fact that the CIO is a cabinet-level position underscores the importance of the initiative and helps to reduce political power plays around technology.
The DTI then created a program management office (PMO), which unites the project management team, the organizational change management team, and the Delaware Enterprise Architecture Lifecycle team. The PMO was charged with creating a structure to evaluate and implement the initiatives within the framework of a centralized architecture plan.
“We always had projects, but before this formal structure we had redundancies,” says Hersey-Miller. For example, the team found that multiple agencies had developed their own case tracking systems, using disparate technology that did not reach across agency lines. “Once we had the PMO, we could start looking at the catalog of projects enterprisewide, evaluate e-government projects across agencies, and look for ways to link them to support the natural flow of business processes,” she says.