Why Not Consolidate More?

Most government technology organizations around the country are in the midst of some type of consolidation. Whether you’re reducing the number of software packages, servers, data centers, or buildings, consolidation almost always brings a nice ROI. So why not consolidate more?

 There have been some good articles recently published on data center consolidation efforts in government around the country. A recent Computerworld article  addressing Government consolidation points out that “Of 29 state governments surveyed last spring by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, nearly 80% had proposed a data center consolidation projects.”  The full NASCIO report is available at their NASCIO website.

 We’ve all known for years that the ROI numbers are always huge for well-managed consolidation efforts, and the security benefits have also been well-documented as well. My question is this: what holds back IT consolidation? Whether were talking about hardware, software, staff, or all of the above, why not consolidate?

I really want to hear your opinions, but first, I’ll give you mine. I think the biggest reasons are political. No, I’m not getting into who are next President is (Democratic v Republican) but office politics and turf. Add culture (i.e. we’ve always done it that way) as well as divisions of government ( i.e. the school districts, or agencies, or courts always have their own IT teams and hardware), and you end up with numerous layers of overhead and inefficiency.

Yes there are sometimes good reasons to stay with a proprietary software package or the custom-built legacy system, but usually IT distributions of duty are made based on governance models. The hard part is changing the governance and culture, not the technology or security.

I don’t want to elaborate too much on this theme, except to say that I believe that this paradigm is changing. I believe the rate of change will only increase as we are forced to do more with less over the coming years. As our Michigan CIO Teri Takai points out in the Computerworld article, we’re already seeing this trend take off in Michigan. There was initial resistance, but the employees are now onboard and seeing the benefits.

I think the new Microsoft and Google models for hosted software which are now being offered will start to dominate the landscape over the next five+ years, and those solutions will only drive more consolidation within government services. Some will say outsource everything, but that’s a different topic for a different day. I’m only addressing consolidation.

What’s your view? Why not consolidate more?    

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