County has new outsourcing source

Dallas County

Dallas County, Texas — one of the first local governments to outsource its information technology department seven years ago — has a new provider and new services in its outsourced environment.

The county awarded a new $40 million, five-year deal to SchlumbergerSema that became effective more than two months ago.

The company — a business unit of Schlumberger Ltd., a global technology services company — took over from Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) Inc. following a seven-month transition period. (Systems and Computer Technology (SCT) Corp. originally provided IT services to the county before ACS purchased SCT's Global Government Solutions business unit in 2001.)

"We're providing 14 different areas of service, everything from data center operations support to telecommunications support," said Chris Campbell, SchlumbergerSema's public sector director. "All of the business applications that the county runs are also included in that, the entire networking infrastructure, all the strategic IT planning initiatives ... [and] help desk components.

"So we're rolling out a lot of our custom applications within Dallas County to help improve efficiency and employee productivity," he added.

Well-defined service-level measurements, along with penalties for not delivering what was negotiated in the contract, are one of the primary differences between the new and old contracts, he said.

"For example, we have a 50 percent first-call resolution rate (for the help desk service)," he said. "So any call that comes into the help desk that's IT related, we're contractually obligated to resolve that problem 50 percent of the time over the phone vs. actually having to send somebody out."

He added that the company also is deploying self-healing tools, such as allowing employees access to a secure Web portal so they can fix problems themselves.

Campbell also said the company will provide consulting services to the county's chief information officer in developing a strategic plan. For example, the company is working with the county clerk's office to automate the entire jury selection process, he said.

But the company also is helping roll out new technologies, such as:

* Enabling public safety agencies with wireless technology.

* Helping develop a disease reporting and tracking system.

* Bringing health organizations and other groups into compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law intended to better protect patient health information and streamline business processes through standardized electronic data interchange.

* Providing all disaster recovery and business continuity services.

Local governments that have outsourced their IT functions have continued to do so, Campbell said, but "also we're seeing a lot of traction within government organizations that are looking at outsourcing as a trend."

The big motivator is being able to have steady IT budgets and forecasting tax rates, he said, adding that there has been substantial interest from neighboring counties.

Dallas County has more than 6,500 employees across 70 different locations. SchlumbergerSema has about 50 to 60 employees, a majority of whom were ACS employees, to support the government.

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