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How to use budget cuts to get a leaner IT system

We look at how economising will continue through 2011

Meticulous budgeting and economising technologies have helped sculpt trim new IT outfits. Here's how IT will maintain its slimmer shape in 2011.

Push-button processes

At the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in the US, automating the area's vital-records systems is the top project queued up for 2011. By making birth, marriage, death and divorce certificates and other documents available electronically, the state hopes to both cut costs and improve services to citizens, says CIO Bob Martin. The project comes on the heels of a recently completed $4m data center consolidation project.

But completing the vital-records project - as well as the dozens of smaller 'cleanup' projects Martin has in the works for 2011 - will be difficult, since the agency doesn't plan to fill the 10 to 15 percent of IT positions vacated through attrition in the past year or so.

Making matters even worse is that across the area, about 35 percent of government employees, including many in IT, are eligible to retire in the next three to five years.

"It's a tough balancing act because at the same time that we're being asked to automate more and more - which makes perfectly good sense - there is a shifting and shuffling of roles and responsibilities among existing staff," Martin says.

"We can't fill those positions, and they may be taken away for good as part of a statewide budget fix," he adds.

Rural Community Insurance Services, which provides crop insurance to the agricultural industry, is looking to revamp and streamline how customers interact with the company online. "Our customers have to do a lot of work and provide a lot of information, but we can actually pre-populate much of that information with data we already have from other agencies," explains CIO Rick Greenwood.

By pre-populating crop data and codes and other information into applications, "we can complete 70 percent of information that customers would otherwise have to key in. After that, all they have to do is validate the information and provide a digital signature, which is a big efficiency," he notes.

"We're looking for internal efficiencies, but we also have to look at how to make our customers more efficient."

Similarly, Jeffrey Pattison, CIO at Inttra Inc, which provides e-commerce systems to the ocean freight industry, says: "We're trying to keep service levels up and keep costs as low as possible." One way to do that is to build more rules-based technology into customer-facing systems, which can then be customised by individual users to streamline their own operations.

"If we can run and grow more efficiently, we can free up more money for  research and development and innovative work," Pattison says.

In the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, CIO Daniel Chan's biggest project for 2011 is called Functional Roadmap. The initiative involves working with an outside consulting firm to review just about all of the organization's business processes and then re-engineer them, automating wherever possible.

"Right now, we have 27 different programs that our clients may be eligible for, and each program is administered very differently. We're looking to consolidate to one or two processes from 27 different ways of doing things," Chan says. "Ten [percent] to 20 percent improvement is not acceptable. We're looking for multipliers of five or ten."

NEXT PAGE: Running for cloud cover

  1. Economising will continue through 2011
  2. Investments in some firms are at a standstill
  3. Push-button processes
  4. Running for cloud cover
  5. Austerity yields new appreciation for IT

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