State Workers Not Getting With Program?
By JAY MILLER
SANTA FE -- Does the state's new $32 million computer program simply not work or are state workers not getting with the program?
That's the $32 million question and by the time we get it answered, it may be a $64 million question. Since the controversy began almost a year ago, when SHARE was implemented, it has gone from being called a $27 million system to a $32 million system.
That figure may be increasing too slowly. It appears the state needs to bite the bullet and get SHARE implemented properly even if will take a considerable investment.
The problem seems to be that there aren't enough computer geniuses to go around. If the state hires enough consultants to do the job, as this column has previously suggested, it will be in competition with many cities, counties, Los Alamos and Sandia national labs, Public Service Company and many other state businesses, all of which use the same Peoplesoft product.
Computer consultants are much in demand and that means they can demand very high rates in addition to expenses for being away from their home area. In addition, consultants don't tend to stay long and when they leave they take all their institutional memory.
The solution is to train permanent employees to handle the new system and then to customize it to fit their agencies' needs. It takes a significant amount of training, evidently more than the state currently is providing.
Another problem is that most agencies do not have permanent employee programmers and developers with the backgrounds and skills to do this customization. They can be hired, but they are expensive and can leave for higher salaries elsewhere.
And many of them have left. Staffing shortages in information technology are the largest in state government. These shortages jeopardize the entire SHARE project.
The idea of consolidating all information technology functions is a no-brainer. Savings on duplicated efforts should more than pay for the new system, while also making government more efficient.
But New Mexico went overboard. Many states are consolidating information services. But many of them are doing it only a few functions at a time. We went for the whole enchilada all at once. All states experienced some difficulties but ours were multiplied, slowing down much of state government.
In addition to consolidating everything at once, state officials wanted to do it in half the time, with half the personnel and begin realizing significant savings immediately.
That is not a recipe for success, especially in a high tech field. Bold, new computerization almost always slows the process for awhile -- even on a personal basis. I'm still wrestling with the new Microsoft Vista.
But there really aren't any alternatives other than proceeding ahead while correcting implementation mistakes. The new Peoplesoft system being used is the most popular in the nation.
Oracle Corp., which bought Peoplesoft, is the leading information management company in the world. So there's nothing wrong with the direction we're headed. Top state officials just bit off more than they could chew, making their implementation plan unworkable.
State employees have been most affected by the botched implementation. State agency information technology offices should have begun preparing when the executive order to consolidate information technology operations was issued three years ago.
A few went out and hired people with the backgrounds necessary to handle the new system. But most didn't. The result has been a tremendous amount of frustration.
A new Department of Information Technology has been created to handle information technology functions. It is going by the acronym DoIT, an apparent message to employees to get with it and "Do IT."
But many state workers are looking at the new name as "Dolt," which they figure is a good description for the people running the department.
Thanks to Thomas Mitchell, of the Children, Youth and Families Department, Information Technology Division for much of the positive information about the conversion.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org