Connecting state and local government leaders

Technology as a Foundation for Statewide Decisionmaking


Connecting state and local government leaders

Wisconsin CIO David Cagigal talks about how tech is forcing statewide decisions.

David Cagigal, now in his fifth year as Wisconsin’s state chief information officer, seems to have the art of the “herding cats” down.

The real question is what comes next for state agencies concerning consolidation?

If Cagigal’s tenure is any indication, we should expect more consolidation and enterprise-wide decisionmaking.

“I’ve come to realize there’s 50 departments and agencies with their own cultures, and you have to respect that,” Cagigal told Route Fifty. “On the other side of that, there needs to be a degree of empathy for the enterprise culture. So we need to respect each other’s points of view and make sure that we’re making decisions for the citizens of Wisconsin.”

The state’s agencies can generally make their own decisions around how to purchase information technology and are not beholden to Cagigal or his agency, the Division of Enterprise Technology. Part of his job is to make clear the business case of working together. However, the state governor and legislature are more often creating the grounds for common decisionmaking.

On that front, Cagigal has had significant success. His agency just integrated 140 different agency systems for procurement, accounting and human resources across 58 different agencies into one Enterprise Resource Planning system, or ERP.

Wisconsin called it the State Transforming Agency Resources, or STAR, project.

For some reason, ERPs are historically synonymous with the technology project that never ends—going way over budget and sucking up resources from across government. In fact, a decade ago Wisconsin had one of those failures with its stalled Integrated Business Information Systems.  

This time around, by creating consensus around the product and keeping down customizations that could have cost extra or created delays, STAR was completed well ahead of time and under budget: Estimated to take four years and $138 million, the system was delivered in two-and-a-half years at only $111 million.

Cagigal emphasized building agreement around a standard system, keeping down customizations. While he understands the need for some uniqueness among agencies, “we don’t need to be strategic about paying our people, paying our vendors or booking a financial transaction. It’s just back office work. It makes no difference how you do it … In fact, there’s an enormous amount of benefit in doing it one way for the enterprise.”

The state is at an inflection point, and the ERP is just one example of it. What’s clear is there is increasing consensus building about the value of working together across the entirety of the state, and these sort of collective actions lead the way.

“What we’ve accomplished on a hardware consolidation and a business function consolidation, the next step would be to organize ourselves in a shared services model, where one organization is responsible for HR, and we started that in July of this year,” Cagigal said. “One person in charge of procurement, and we’re almost there as well, and one person in charge of finance, and then a consolidated IT organization.”

“We’re a federated model … 30 IT directors sum total of about 2,400 professionals—1,600 FTEs and about 800 contractors—but just try to imagine if we did it one way how effective we would be. Being respectful of my fellow CIOs, they have over time built an enormous amount of legacy systems in their portfolios that require modernization. How would you modernize? Thirty different ways or one way?”

Cagigal believes this is especially true when it comes to public safety, pointing to the 9-1-1 public safety answering points that are spread across the state and primarily based on the “analogue” copper-wire phone company technology that these emergency response personnel began working with when 9-1-1 began decades ago.

“Tomorrow, they have to be on a digital platform. They have to have network skills, network administrators. They don’t have those people,” he said. “It’s a very complicated new world tomorrow when they go from the analogue to the digital.”

“This is a significant, significant challenge for us because they are all on analogue,” Cagigal said. “We have 109 PSAPs, public safety answering points—109 in 72 counties. Why do we have 109? We should be looking at the best way of taking a call.”

Wisconsin recently consolidated this transition from analogue to digital 911 and emergency communications decisions into the state’s Department of Military Affairs.

“Doing all three of those together in one organization, under the leadership of a single leader, is really going to help us coordinate and be effective in doing so,” Cagigal explained. “The game has changed … so the state is going to step up.”

Mitch Herckis is Senior Director of Programs for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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