The NASCIO 2017 Annual Conference is sharing best practices, key lessons, and useful strategies for state and local government technology leaders. For those unable to attend the conference, MeriTalk State & Local is sharing key lessons, in a bite-size format, from the conference. First up: How to tackle IT consolidation.
Early on in his tenure as Tennessee CIO, Mark Bengel noticed a problem. Small data centers were cropping up across state agencies. He knew that unless he tackled the problem quickly, it would become irreversible. Bengel knew his IT consolidation needed to start with data center consolidation. While Bengel was initially concerned that the lack of a mandate from his governor would be a hindrance, he quickly realized that it was actually a gift. Without an executive mandate, he had to be careful and deliberate with his consolidation plan.
“Consolidation is one of the most contentious things you can do in government,” Bengel said.
He compared it to the slow and steady turtle and limited tenure hare. As Bengel explained, if you consolidate too quickly for your customers to absorb the changes you’ll have angry customers and if you consolidate too fast for your employees to provide good customer service, you’ll have even angrier customers. Instead, Bengel worked slowly and carefully to ensure that the consolidation was done correctly and didn’t disrupt state agencies.
“If I lost one agency, I’d knew I’d lose them all,” Bengel said.
Bengel decided to tie data center consolidation to existing server contracts. Basically, as existing min-data centers met their end-of-life, the data had to be moved to the centralized data center. Because Bengel’s team controlled procurement, they were able to ensure that no backdoor purchases were made.
To Bengel’s surprise, this plan worked. In 2007, as the amount of data brought in-house grew, Bengel and his team started plans for a new data in 2007. By 2009, Bengel achieved his goal of data center consolidation and had opened a new, 35,000-square-foot data center.