State and local eyes focused on Iowa's test

Iowa's return-on-investment process could be the template for IT evaluation

programs that other states might put together, according to Bob Glasser,

president of the State Information Technology Consortium (SITC).

Because it tries to evaluate what citizens want from IT, as well as

the benefits that accrue to the executive and legislative branches of government,

Glasser believes Iowa's ROI process is uniquely tailored to the state market.

"I'm unaware of anyone who has done anything similar," he said. "The

Iowa work is extremely good, and I know other states, counties and localities

will be interested in looking at it for their own purposes."

SITC, the technical arm of the National Association of State Information

Resource Executives (NASIRE), was one of the organizations Iowa consulted

because it maintains an extensive knowledge base of IT processes, procedures

and protocols that are already in place at all levels of government.

Glasser sees Iowa's chief information officer, Richard Varn, as a major

asset the state had in putting together its ROI program. Because Varn was

an Iowa lawmaker for a number of years, directly involved in assessing IT

programs, he was particularly cognizant of the need to show a benefit to

the citizen, Glasser said, and also knew how to make the ROI process understandable

to both the legislature and the public.

Although other states might have tried to put a similar evaluation process

in place, Glasser said, Varn's particular experience has allowed Iowa to

drive ahead with its ROI model.

Another critical advantage was the fact that Iowa Gov. Thomas Vilsack

has thrown his support behind the program, Glasser said, and has been visible

in working with Varn to develop it. That sends the vital message to everyone

in government that they should pay attention to it.

How much of the Iowa model other governments can use for their own purposes

depends on a number of factors, including what kind of regulations they

have in place and what business rules they use. Even in the Iowa government,

Glasser expects some parts will adopt the process more quickly than others.

Nevertheless, conversations he's already had with other states shows

there is a substantial interest in ROI and the Iowa model, he said, and

he expects it will provide "a strong baseline" for similar efforts in other

states.

Alaska's former chief information officer, Mark Badger, who now works

for Cisco Systems Inc., says the customer-centric approach to ROI analysis

is the way to go.

"The importance is the bottom line," Badger said. "What is the quantitative

value you put on government access 7 [days] by 24 [hours]? What is the value

of a mom picking up the phone when she realizes her car tags have expired

and has two kids and doesn't want to leave the driveway? What is the value

when she can do it online?"

SITC hopes to soon include the Iowa model in its own Web site database

of state programs.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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