Tumbling Data Walls: Keeping a state out front in technology
Bradley S. Dugger
Chief of Information Systems, Tennessee
Thirteen years ago, Bradley Dugger began overseeing information systems in the state of Tennessee, toiling away in an era when backroom mainframes were running the show. Dugger still oversees Tennessee’s information systems, but his job is as different as the technology he now oversees. Network connections shoot information from office to office around the state, speedy PCs sit on most desks, and the Internet has taken a place of prominence in state plans for the technology future.
Tennessee may not be one of the first states that comes to mind when most people think about leading-edge information technology, but it should be. Dugger, Tennessee’s chief of information systems, continues to come up with innovations and seize on and support creative ideas from his staff to implement programs that other chief information officers often try to emulate. “I know of nobody more current than he is,” says Carolyn Purcell, executive director of the Department of Information Resources in Texas. “He’s more aware of and responsive to the rapidity of change in this industry than just about anybody.”
Dugger’s latest project will consolidate into one the three separate networks that now criss-cross the state. The unified network will be faster, have more capacity and cost less than the current three. But the state will not run it. Tennessee is privatizing the statewide network under a $118 million, five-year contract, the largest technology contract ever for the state. Instead of buying and fussing with the wires and the equipment, the state is buying the service.
One major component of that service is flexibility. For instance, the state might need extra video capacity to one building one month and to another the next. The contractor will be responsible for managing that capacity, and providing the state what it needs when it needs it. “I don’t know of any other state that’s done this,” Dugger says. The contract with BellSouth and Qwest was expected to be signed sometime last month.
The consolidation goes along with Dugger’s longtime campaign to knock down the walls that separate the many departments and branches of government and develop an atmosphere of cooperation. “I’ve always held that data was a state asset that didn’t belong to any one agency,” says Dugger. For the past decade, he has been responsible for setting standards that allow state agencies to work efficiently and share information across departments.
Dugger also was instrumental in setting up a revolving fund for technology so agencies could stay current and get the tools they needed; if a department can build a case that a new system will save enough money to pay for itself or generate income, that agency can get a loan up front and pay it off after five years. “We can bring systems in without the huge budgetary issue of trying to get funds,” says Dugger, “and it forces them to look at how they can do things differently.”
And when it comes time for staff members to get trained on those new systems, they can head for the state’s Information Systems College, where they can get up to two weeks of training—training that the departments have already paid for as part of the network connection fees they pay on a regular basis.
Dugger’s contributions go beyond the borders of Tennessee. He is well known among state information resource executives for his contributions to their national association, NASIRE. Dugger was its president in 1993-94, and for the past six years has served as chair of its intergovernmental relations committee. “His thinking process is very clear,” says Missouri CIO Mike Benzen, the current NASIRE president. “He’s an exceptional leader who understands the industry.”
— Ellen Perlman
Photo by Greg Kinney