States share advice on portals

As more state and local governments switch to simplified, consolidated front-end

portal strategies, they should diversify their back-end vendors, said experts

who spoke at GTC West in Sacramento, Calif.

"No single company has the silver bullet — the single answer that will

solve all your needs and problems," said Arun Baheti, director of e-government

for the California Governor's Office. "That's not exactly what the vending

community wants you to think, but it's true."

The solution, Baheti said, is to look for the best of breed, in which

a separate vendor is outsourced for each specific need, such as security,

procurement, transactions or wireless.

"We're not tied to one single vendor for our entire portal. If one vendor

flakes on us, we can dump them. If a better vendor with more sophisticated

technology comes along, we can decide to go with them," Baheti said.

Baheti said focus groups and private-sector input are responsible for

the success of California's portal.

"Rather than think we knew what our customers wanted — as most governments

do — we went and found out what they wanted firsthand," Baheti said. "Integrating

customer input was a constant throughout the entire process."

Bob Stafford, chief information officer for the New Mexico Information

Technology Management Office, said such emphasis on communication should

be a model for other states working with municipalities.

"It's about taking away the barriers," Stafford said. "It's not about

coming in and saying, "Hey, we want you to rewrite your programs and applications

this way,' but rather, "Hey, we want to hook up with you, seamlessly, through

a common interface."

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