Big data in Texas
By Priscilla Luzader Pipho
“Everything’s bigger in Texas” may rally state pride, but when it comes to the state’s massive IT operations, big results came by way of consolidating the technology infrastructures of 29 state agencies into two modern data centers. With its data center services (DCS) program now in operation, Texas has reduced taxpayer costs and improved security, disaster recovery capabilities and overall satisfaction. The program is now available to other governmental entities that wish to realize these benefits, allowing them the freedom to focus more on core programs.
Historically, all Texas state agencies managed their own IT operations. This independence created uneven levels of IT investment and a discordant portfolio of hardware, software and IT vendor relationships. In 2005, a legislative mandate was passed to modernize the aging technologies by consolidating and standardizing the Texas agencies’ IT infrastructures.
The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) led the effort to corral all of the independent data centers into two locations. To support disaster recovery, these data centers are located hundreds of miles apart. That’s easy to do in a state this big.
DIR faced the challenge of structuring a program to engage independent, autonomous agencies. With no direct authority over the agencies and facing slow progress early on, DIR adopted a highly collaborative approach to ensure its customer agencies had a voice in the decision-making process to select and manage the outsourced vendors. This creative and effective approach to stakeholder involvement earned DIR the NASCIO 2014 State CIO Office Special Recognition Award.
New processes helped to ensure input from the teams responsible for executing the work and provided for well documented and continually updated instructions and training. Through the state bidding process, DIR chose Capgemini as the multi-sourcing integrator to manage and oversee the complex requirements of all involved stakeholders.
This approach enabled participating agencies to better manage their environment by providing flexibility, accountability, monitoring tools, cost transparency and comprehensive program management. As a result, the state dramatically improved performance, meeting or exceeding service levels 97 percent of the time in the last year. Customer satisfaction also rose 45 percent, while maintaining or reducing service costs. These benefits enabled the agencies to more reliably deliver services to the people and businesses of Texas.
With an annual budget of around $190 million, the scope and scale of the environment requires astute performance management. These government agencies operate 6,000 servers and run 166,000 monthly backups, 330,000 monthly mainframe batch jobs, and 19 million print-mail pieces per month. Up-to-the-minute data and analysis contribute to improved decision making at both a customer and statewide level.
Texas has made great strides toward a modern, advanced environment to host the state agencies’ critical systems. Agencies have eliminated the burden of managing their own IT infrastructures, and can now provide constituents with higher levels of service in a cost-effective, Texas-big way.
Priscilla Luzader Pipho is chief customer officer, Texas Department of Information Resources.