Journey Around the Value Chain

In this issue, we bring you stories that show how your peers in state and local government agencies throughout the country are striving to deliver value from their information technology investments and a return on the proverbial tax dollar. Some of the most interesting examples of this effort are highlighted in our cover story on state networks that offer public information for a fee. Through such networks, for example, the owners of a school bus fleet can-for a fee-check electronically to find out if a prospective employee has a clean driving record. Other users can be alerted as legislation passes key milestones.

Some argue that this information already has been paid for once by taxpayers and therefore should be offered at little or no charge. The information providers counter that by packaging the information and offering express delivery of it, they are adding value to the data that is above and beyond the initial cost of gathering it.

In my view, the real test of whether there is value being created by these services or whether they should be offered for free is if there is a market growing up around them. For the answer, see our story on Page 14. I think you'll be surprised at what's going on in places such as Kansas, Indiana and Georgia, where state agencies and commercial providers are putting out "data for hire."

Meanwhile, in California and Missouri, state and local IT strategists are working on shoring up the back end of the value chain. In addition to recouping value, they are trying to prevent its escape. Although the tools they are using-called risk management practices-are still considered experimental, the art of risk management nevertheless is making growing contributions to the success of large IT projects.

Two practitioners of the discipline, John Thomas Flynn, the president of National Association of State Information Resource Executives (NASIRE), and incoming president Mike Benzen, the chief information officer of Missouri, discuss the issue in our story on Page 20. Flynn also has penned a valedictory to his NASIRE colleagues that appears in our First Person column on Page 54.

This issue of also contains a more basic story of how IT has helped return value to a community. On Page 8, we report on the efforts of Neighborhood Knowledge Los Angeles (NKLA), a group that is trying to preserve Los Angeles communities by creating electronic inventories of the city's housing stock. By maintaining current information from the city's housing, building, safety, water and electric departments, organizers of NKLA want to make it easier to keep the buildings repaired and maintained. While the application seems tailor-made for the Internet, it was the result of a huge investment of time and effort on the part of local community workers.

Perhaps that's what we forget most often in our relentless pursuit of additional value. Whatever success results from an IT project, it is almost always proportionate to the amount of time and effort individuals are willing to invest.

Paul McCloskey



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