Show-me state shows how to consolidate storage


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Playing politics
Technical challenges, however, pale in comparison to the financial and political challenges. The politics of IT consolidation in any organization can be fierce, with jobs and budgets at stake. The Missouri IT consolidation began as a political campaign promise. When Ross saw it as a monster, he was thinking about the politics involved, not the technical changes.

"It would be very hard for a CIO from the outside to come in and do this. My strength lay in being a long-term bureaucrat who had worked for both parties," says Ross. "This [consolidation] doesn't have a lot to do with technology," he adds, it has more to do with budgets, funding, appropriations and accounting.

Ross immediately brought in three top deputies to help him. One was a strategic planner, the second was the financial wizard and the third, Chris Wilkerson, was the true technologist.

Resistance to consolidation was expected from the start. "Yes, you lose autonomy, but there's no loss of [IT] service," says Ross. Resistance was about control, not service delivery. Ross made sure that every agency's service-level agreement was honored or they negotiated changes. Unlike past CIOs, who could make recommendations for change but had no power, Ross came to the task with the full power of the Governor's office behind

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him. He could transfer budgets and staff as required.

Jobs were another concern, as civil service employees are protected. Ross opened all top IT positions for anyone to apply. Some staffers chose to retire. "Nobody would lose their job due to the consolidation. No one was laid off," says Ross.

However, people would be asked to change and many would have to learn new IT skills. "We had one person who wouldn't take new training," recalls Ross. Without training, they couldn't do the job and were gone. "If they wanted job security they had to be prepared to learn new skills and change," he says.

The IT consolidation drove the demand for and growth of IT. But the consolidated IT organization is now 51 positions smaller than when Ross started. "We were able to leverage technology to keep staffing down," he says, which is good because Governor Blunt capped overall Missouri government at 60,000 employees. The consolidated IT organization has 1,186 employees.

Agencies also played politics with the savings they would see from IT consolidation. "We automated a process that saved one agency $500,000 in postage expenses," says Ross. But the agency had to spend those savings before legislators grabbed it for use elsewhere (see "Lessons learned," below).

Lessons learned

  • Surround yourself with the right people. Designate outstanding people to handle critical planning, strategy, financial and technology tasks.

  • Consolidate as fast as possible. Changes in leadership mean there's a chance consolidation may never be completed or that it might get rolled back.

  • Preserve budget flexibility. Avoid getting locked into single-purpose budget allocations.

  • Expect rapid fabric growth. Avoid running out of ports or excessive hop counts.

  • Guard your consolidation savings. People will grab any available money they can identify.

  • Pay attention to politics. Technology is only one part, often the smaller part, of the consolidation challenge.

  • Consider skill sets. Jobs and responsibilities will change, often requiring training.

This was first published in November 2008

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