VITA Plans Big Deal
Over the next month or two, an unusual thing is about to happen in Virginia. VITA, or the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, is planning to award a multi-billion-dollar contract for state computer services.
VITA is a fairly new concept: since all state agencies need the same computer services, why not make one office responsible for all of it? Things like helping people with their desktop computers, designing web sites, and keeping track of licenses are things that all state agencies have to do. Centralizing all of this work could lead to a huge savings to state taxpayers.
Once you put it all in one place, the next logical question is: how cheaply can we do these things? VITA is trying to find out. Over the next month or two the agency is expected to negotiate a deal with a large computer services company. Industry giants IBM and Northrop Grumman are competing for the outsourcing effort's infrastructure -- or hardware -- side. IBM and Canadian firm CGI-AMS are seeking the enterprise applications -- or software -- contract.The details are still murky, but it should make for a drastic difference in the way a lot of state agencies manage their computer assets.
It's an unprecedented deal: expected to last seven to ten years and valued at over $1 Billion, the state hopes to modernize a lot of it's computer systems and services. States usually run ten years or more behind the commercial world.
Of course, there are always problems. Many critics complain about the lack of an open bidding process, although nobody has come forward to explain how a completely open negotiating process could work with dozens of state agencies and hundreds of software applications and software/hardware configurations.
It appears that VITA is doing a thorough job of it, however. Partnering with the Center for Survey Research of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at UVA, VITA is embarking on a long-term business research project. The first phase will query in-scope agency customers to determine how VITA’s service, products and costs are perceived by its primary market.
Knowing that you can't manage what you can't measure is a great step forward for VITA, and for the computer business in general. VITA has a big job ahead of it, cataloging all of the things that need managing, setting baselines and metrics for growth, modeling the business processes, and negotiating a major deal for Virginia taxpayers. Good luck to them!