Orange County Provides IT Services Via Catalog

To simplify service contract management and provide a higher standard for IT projects, OC's former CTO opts for a catalog

Joel Manfredo, former CTO of the County of Orange California, had a daunting problem when he was hired in 2008. His staff, with help from staff augmentation contractor ACS, provided enterprise IT services for 18,000 employees in 30 agencies. It was a siloed arrangement that was sometimes adversarial, often inefficient, and always left Manfredo shaking his head.

Staff managed the workload by being wholly reactive, he says, with no way to set priorities among the 77 projects they might be handling at one time. "I knew I wanted to change our focus to look forward instead of fighting the fire of the moment," he says.

Manfredo also wanted to improve the working relationship between county staff and contractors, shifting them away from an us-versus-them mind-set and toward seeing each other as one IT team. To get started, he brought in an outside facilitator to lead monthly meetings designed to bring people together and establish action items that could be completed within 30 days.

"We wanted staff to see that it was irrelevant whose signature was on the paycheck," says Manfredo. "The goal was the effective delivery of services to our customers." The meetings also helped improve accountability.

Manfredo's next move was educating customers whose understanding of IT costs was based on things like their home Internet bill, where they pay a flat fee each month and don't need to know the true value of the data they use. "I needed to get people to understand IT as a service, to get them to question why IT costs what it does," Manfredo says. "You can't get to effective IT governance without charging for services."

To clearly communicate what services can be delivered, the team created a service catalog detailing 33 IT offerings that the county's other agencies can shop for.

Each service is clearly described, including an explanation of pricing and how the agency charges, along with some service tips. Then, to create buzz about the new processes, the staff created a marketing brochure, complete with testimonials. "The idea was to generate interest in what we do. We do operate like a business--most people don't know that," Manfredo says.

Mike Kerr, director of IT at Orange County's district attorney's office, says the change in county services provided much-needed transparency and documentation. "If something goes down, the staff can look at the documentation to solve the issue," he says. He also says the ease of enrollment in new services is a major plus. "They come out to my office, which is only five miles away, and we draw it out on the whiteboard."

Jean Yu, director of the IT division at the local probation department, adds that the county's efforts to centralize IT have lowered operating costs and been an overall improvement. "They have established a lot of procedures and policies that are better than before."

Manfredo says the lower cost came from a reduction in contractor staff, and adds that he's seen a 38 percent reduction in the kind of problems his department regularly had to fix when he first came on board. "That reduction owes to better processes and proactive monitoring," he says. "Along the way, we added documentation for over 250 procedures that didn't exist."

Orange County is now in the process of expanding the service catalog to add more offerings. "The mojo moment was when we had a month without a single service-level breach," Manfredo says. "It was far more successful than I anticipated."

Contact Editorial Assistant Lauren Brousell at lbrousell@cio.com. Follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/lbrousell.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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