State’s IT solutions shouldn’t be political footballs

    Editor’s note:
    Kirk Strong, a principal at Smart Interactive Media in Mequon, was appointed to the Wisconsin Speaker’s Task Force on State Information Technology Failures. The task force is addressing a series of technological failures that have hampered state government in recent years.
    Strong is not optimistic about the chances of tangible progress cutting through the political malaise.
    "I would be surprised if substantial changes would take place based upon the recommendations of the Taskforce.  In the current climate of polarized party politics the possibility of meaningful reforms are unfortunately dreams that will never see the light of day," Strong said.
    The following is the text of a letter Strong sent to Rep. Phil Montgomery (R-Green Bay), who was seeking recommendations from members of the task force..

    Dear Rep. Montgomery,
    Thank you for allowing me to serve and hopefully improve the state that I love. I’ve enjoyed serving on the task force and I have a few recommendations that I think would be helpful to the state moving forward on IT projects.

    • Software or IT projects need to be reviewed and evaluated every four years to anticipate needed and future expenditures.  Even though I know this isn’t always politically possible the testimony of a number of key people, including the current IT Manager for the Department of Administration, revealed that the biggest problem they faced was trying to update software and systems that were 20+ years old.  I’m confident that given the choice to spend a few thousand dollars every four years as opposed to millions every other decade would be favorable to every legislator, governor and citizen of this great independent state. 
    • I found the reasons given for not partnering with other states to share IT secrets to be very weak.  As a tax payer I don’t care if we are riding the coattails of another state’s software as long as it does what it needs to do. In the private sector we call this concept of sharing information and techniques “strategic partnering.” Strategic Partnering is what made Microsoft the world leader in computer software, Toyota the king of car companies around the world and Wisconsin’s own Johnson Controls the thriving Fortune 100 Company it is today. I know this firsthand since I use Microsoft products, own a Toyota/GM automobile and work with Johnson Controls as a strategic partner.  
    • Finally, I don’t believe there is a “smoking gun” when it comes to accountability for failure of these projects.  Given the current and past state of prioritizing politics over practicality I’m not surprised as these types of failures happen. I think efforts to dissect and nitpick these projects to assign blame would be as useful as correcting the syntax and spelling errors of Mein Kampf. The overall system, not the individuals working within the system, was to blame.

    I would be more than happy to discuss these ideas in greater detail if needed. I look forward to our last task force meeting on the 27th of August.


    Kirk Strong

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