Michigan Broadens Its IT Consolidation

Michigan broadens its IT consolidation initiative to facilities and administrative services.
October 2010
Steve Towns
By Steve Towns  | 

The city of Gaylord is a pleasant community in central Michigan with a population of 3,500. So why does it drive Ken Theis -- director of the state’s newly formed Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) -- a little bit crazy? It’s not the town itself that sets him off; it’s the fact that 19 state government facilities are located there.

“Why would there be 19 facilities? Well, it’s because for years, there were 19 state agencies in Michigan,” Theis says. “And in a lot of ways, government has built itself from the inside out, not the outside in.”

The state is on a mission to change that. It’s Theis’ job to bring new technology and a shared services philosophy to the state’s core administrative functions. He’s looking to consolidate facilities, digitize paper forms, aggregate and automate purchasing processes, and generally streamline many mundane tasks that keep the state government in business.

The DTMB -- formed in March by an executive order that merged Michigan’s Department of Technology and Department of Management and Budget -- represents an attempt by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to broaden the state’s successful IT consolidation initiative. For the past decade, Michigan has been a national leader in aggregating IT equipment and staff, and sharing common technology systems among multiple government agencies. Those efforts have saved nearly $20 million and reclaimed 30,000 square feet of office space, according to the state.

“I think the governor’s idea is that we did this from an IT standpoint,” Theis says. “How can we take that same approach for all those other core functional services?”

Theis, who remains Michigan’s CIO as well as director of the DTMB, sees huge potential for expanding that approach beyond data centers and other core IT infrastructure. Paper forms, for instance, are an easy target. Theis already eliminated about 300 of the 1,900 types of forms maintained by the DTMB -- and he thinks that number ultimately could be cut in half.

The next step is to automate many of them. Theis says the agency is starting with the six most commonly used documents -- and it’s already digitized one of the most important: the DTMB’s purchasing form. The new form lets users enter information electronically, and then it automatically routes the request through multiple layers of approval. “We’ve reduced the cycle time by almost 70 percent in some situations,” Theis says, adding that changes like these could deliver massive benefits when multiplied across the DTMB’s $3.7 billion purchasing portfolio.

And then there are state facilities -- more than 2,200 of them. “It took us almost 90 days to figure out how many facilities we actually own or lease because today facilities are managed by all of the different agencies,” Theis says. “There must be a better way to do it.”

Theis is pushing to consolidate management of these facilities, reduce their number and add a dose of smart-building technology to the remaining structures to cut power consumption. The approach wouldn’t just save money; it also would improve citizen convenience by concentrating government services in fewer locations.

Of course, all of these changes -- the combining of two state agencies into the DTMB, and the subsequent consolidation and automation of administrative services -- stem from long-term economic pressure in Michigan, which has spent most of the past decade battling tough state budgets.

“You can either try to protect the way it used to be, or you can look proactively and say, ‘How do we go after this?’” Theis says. “After the eighth or ninth year of budget reductions, you finally realize, you know, it’s not going to get better.”

And ultimately, that might mean there should be fewer state government buildings in Gaylord.

Editor’s note: As Governing went to press, Ken Theis announced he was leaving Michigan state government Oct. 1 for a private-sector position.