Lessons Learned From An IT Project Gone Bad

VARs chomping at the bit for a piece of Alaska's $260 million IT budget have lots of options, with telecommunications, security, and consolidation initiatives just getting under way. But they may have to work a little harder, as the state revamps its process for implementing technology, said chief technology officer Stan Herrera in a teleconference yesterday.

The state of Alaska learned from a past debacle with local provider Alaska Communications Systems (ACS), which ended in 2003 with a canceled contract.

"[The project] failed due to the planning and execution stages of the contract, not the technology," Herrera said during the teleconference, which was sponsored by the Center for Digital Government. "It was the manner in which it was deployed. Critical is understanding both sides of the contract. You need to communicate -- I can't stress that enough. Alaska was lucky to not have to enter into litigation with ACS, and ACS was lucky as well."

Since then, Alaska has moved on with plans for ambitious IT initiatives that will streamline government processes, improve efficiency and save some major dollars. But before rollouts comes careful evaluation and planning. Now, IT is handled with an enterprise methodology model, procurement is overseen by a governance body in the executive branch and standards are enforced by a technology management counsel.

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"We were able to get all state departments to pull together IT plans so we could better understand what they were trying to do and the monies being spent," Herrera says.

Already, the state's IT department consolidated purchasing of PCs and servers with one vendor. In addition, a cyberattack in January inspired network security initiatives -- a supplementary budget will pay for the replacement of a government wide-area network infrastructure, routers and switchers. Changes will continue from there, with the potential consolidation of various back-office practices and data centers.

"A huge piece is to establish policy and procedure," Herrera said. "It's all part of the cultural change that has to occur. Have we established a firm standard? Not yet; we've gathered the information and are facing the major decisions. It's in the best interest as you step away from the silo approach."