9. ACT NO. 185 (D) Recommend a model

 

This section addresses item (D) of ACT NO 185.

9.1. Other Models

9.1.1. Oversight of Information Technology Acquisitions

The following data is extracted from Boerner [ Boerner, Robert D., "Effective Budgeting and Oversight for Information Technology Expenditures," National Conference of State Legislatures, December 1995, p.2-3.] to indicate the variety of models which exist for overseeing technology acquisitions in state government. Some states use a combination of models.

For example, the Colorado Commission on Information Management (IMC) oversees all information systems, data management activities and related expenditures. The Commission consist of 15 members: eight from the private sector, one each from the Senate and House, plus the state court administrator, the executive director of the Department of Administration and the executive directors of three departments selected by the governor. The private-sector members are selected for their expertise in information management and technology. The IMC has subcommittees responsible for planning and budgeting; major initiatives; and policies, standards and technical review. [ Boerner, Robert D., "Effective Budgeting and Oversight for Information Technology Expenditures," National Conference of State Legislatures, December 1995. Many more models are available, as it appears that each state has its own separate approach.]

9.1.2. Evaluation Criteria of Purchases

There are no clear, or generally agreed upon, evaluation criteria for technology investments. In the private-sector, criteria may range from strict financial criteria to very soft qualitative criteria, or some combination of both approaches. [ McDowell, Samuel W. "Prototype for a Minimal Constraint Capital Investment Decision Support System," University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1992.]

This variability is also true in the public sector. According to Boerner: [ Boerner, Robert D., "Effective Budgeting and Oversight for Information Technology Expenditures", National Conference of State Legislatures, December 1995.]

Criteria used in the evaluation process vary significantly by state. Several of the criteria include: use of feasibility study (Colorado); determination of relevance to agency needs (Florida); review of budget request, bid criteria, project manager’s approval and deliverables (Maryland); use of lowest and best bid (Mississippi); use of statewide goals and objectives, master plan, current resources and annual budget and review process (New Jersey); and assessment of cost, risk, need, life cycle and ability to meet implementation deadlines (Washington).

The recommendation for a Technical Advisory Council (Section 9.3 of this report) is presented as a means to address evaluation criteria of information technology by those individuals who are daily responsible for those types of decisions.

9.1.3. Organizational and funding comparisons

An informal survey of other states was completed with regard to their state telecommunications network, management of the network, and how the managing organization was funded. If the survey identified a unique, successful model at other states, it would be useful as a benchmark from which to develop a proposal for Vermont.

The survey revealed no clear, single model for administration and funding of a statewide telecommunications network. Some states installed and managed all of the physical network equipment and wires, other states leased everything, and some states did a combination of both. Funding of the network administration group included appropriations from the General Fund, chargebacks through a revolving fund, or a combination of both types of funding. Some specific examples are provided below.

State

Network

Funding of administrative group

Arizona

Leased lines operated by state

Revolving funds / fee for service

Colorado

Combination of state owned and leased

Chargeback and General Fund appropriations

Delaware

Various

General Fund appropriations

Illinois

No comprehensive state plan

Individual state agencies determine funding

Iowa

State owned and operated

Fee for service and appropriations

Maine

Leased lines

Chargeback to agencies (including capital expenditures)

Michigan

Leased lines

Revolving fund chargebacks

Missouri

Leased network

Revolving funds, bill back to agency

Nebraska

Leased lines

Revolving fund chargeback

North Dakota

Leased lines; frame relay

Revolving funds chargeback

South Carolina

Leased lines, managed either internally or out-sourced

Revenues; cost recovery

There appear to be many reasons that lead a state to move in a certain direction for network administration and funding. Some of those reasons (by assumption) may include: [ These examples are from Center for Policy Alternatives and the Benton Foundation, "State and Local Strategies for Connecting Communities: A Snapshot of the 50 States" unless noted otherwise.]

9.2. Recommendation

The following recommendations implicitly address the consolidation of the data communication needs of the entities identified in the previous section. In general, these needs are addressed through individual agency technology plans and the coordinated efforts of IRMAC. This report offers no specific recommendations for consolidation efforts. Collaboration and consolidation appear to be topics regularly addressed by:

9.3. Technical and Operational Model

A legislative body is not the proper place for technology decision making. Technology is changing so fast that it may be difficult for the Vermont Legislature alone to respond adequately during its limited time in session each year. (See Section 4. Information Technology) For example, there may be a significant technology shift occurring between the beginning of a session in January and its adjournment in May. During the period when the Legislature is adjourned, another technology shift may occur before it meets again the following January. The following organization and process therefore takes into account the rapid pace and complexity of technology, and the Legislature’s need to oversee a state budget.

9.3.1. Organization Proposal

The legislative members’ participation is primarily to maintain communication between the Council and the General Assembly. The other members – such as chief information officers and technology consultants representing a spectrum of business and education – should have technical expertise. Existing models in Vermont for this Council include the Vermont Economic Progress Council, the Vermont Technology Council, the Public Records Advisory Board, the Compensation Review Panel, and the Advisory Council on Adult Education.

9.3.2. Process Proposal

This proposal is very similar to recommendations made in the 1996 EDP Auditors report. [ Draft 1996 CAFR Audit, EDP Auditor Support] The timing of budget preparation, and the composition of an advisory council, are two areas where there are differences between this proposal and the EDP Auditor’s Report.

Proposal

Once budgetary approval is complete, the agencies implement the budget as approved.