by Eric Berkman

Michigan Leads IT Innovation

Apr 01, 20022 mins

The state of Michigan has a long history of innovation?from the Model T and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes to Motown and Kid Rock. Now it’s also an IT organizational innovator.

In a move that could become a blueprint for other state governments, Gov. John Engler is centralizing all state IT resources (including approximately 2,000 IT workers) from the individual agencies under a new, cabinet-level Department of Information Technology (DIT). The DIT, headed by new state CIO Jacque Passino, who reports directly to Engler, will handle responsibilities previously handled separately by the agencies, such as vendor management, infrastructure management, user support and application development.

According to the governor, this new system?which evolved from his 2-year-old “e-Michigan” initiative to put state services online?should give the state a better handle on its IT resources, more consistent IT platforms and infrastructure, improved project management and better use of staff. Engler hopes this also leads to better services for the public. “In the traditional, decentralized structure, everyone was in their silos and didn’t often realize that maybe what they were doing was closely related to what someone else was already doing or needed to do,” says Engler. “It’s scary to think how often people would reinvent the wheel.”

The centralization effort was announced in August, and Passino was appointed in November, so it’s still in the early stages. Passino, who doesn’t plan to stay after Engler leaves office on Jan. 1, faces considerable implementation challenges, like resistance from IT staffers reluctant to move out of their agencies, prioritizing projects and consolidating IT resources. Other states have dabbled in smaller efforts to consolidate IT functions, but none have ever tried anything this comprehensive. “Everyone will be watching with great interest to see how this unfolds,” says Sharon Dawes, director of the Center for Technology in Government at the University of Albany.