The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 27, 2013
Former government tech official weighs in on Ohio's IT lessons

Thumbnail image for email.jpg Reader Steve Steinbrecher emailed his response to our Thursday State Worker column, "Lessons from Ohio's state tech project." We're publishing it here, unedited, and with the author's permission:

Dear Jon:

I read your piece in this morning's Bee with a great deal of interest. I am a retired Chief Information Officer (CIO) who worked 35 years in public sector IT. I spent a number of years as CIO for San Joaquin County, as well as Contra Costa County, and also spent a good amount of time working on integrated projects with the state and its CIO's.

Short background: I had leadership responsibility for a couple of very large and expensive, but successful county IT projects (integrated Health Care and Criminal Justice Systems for San Joaquin, a couple of Enterprise Resource Planning systems for both counties (more commonly known as "Empty Rear Pocket" if you allow the consultants to drive your project) to replace aging Payroll and Human Resources applications, and of course, the infamous Y2K project. I cut my teeth on California's first attempt at a Statewide Welfare System (I think it was called SPAN) back in the late 1970's (failure), was very involved in the only successful Statewide Automated Welfare System (SAWS) in the 1980's, and the Statewide Automated Child Support System (SACSS - A colossal failure that County CIO's warned the state of impending failure three years before it even attempted to "go live"). I truly love reading all of these stories in the Bee and other publications, because as Led Zeppelin says, "The Song Remains the Same."

Mr. Conomy got almost everything correct in your interview. However, fear NEVER works as a motivator, in my humble opinion, because when the brown stuff hits the fan with respect to a public (or private) sector IT project, the CIO is fired, the politicians and high level project sponsors cover their butts, and the project either goes on, or another one come along to take its place (just look at California's IT track record, as you so aptly pointed out in your piece). Having said that, what he DID get right is:

NEVER give an IT project to outside contractors and consultants. The only skin they have in the game is receiving your monthly payments (and yes, post-retirement, I too worked as a strategic planning IT consultant for about 8 years...)

About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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