The Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT) is the expert agency on all information and technology related needs for state government. An important goal of the services we provide is to ensure we help our clients utilize technology to support their business needs.
South Dakota is one of few states where information and technology services have been centralized. This was mandated in 1996. Since that date, centralization has accomplished tremendous financial and technology efficiencies for the state. The standardization of technology resources has created effective customer services that can be delivered at very affordable costs.
Through an Executive Order in the mid-1970s, the concept of cabinet bureaus (as opposed to traditional cabinet departments) was established for administration, finance and management and information technology.
South Dakota became the first state in the nation to centralize all aspects of information and technology services in 1996. Consolidation allowed South Dakota to do I/T on 60¢ per pre-consolidation dollar and stay below pre-consolidation staffing levels for 12 years all the while increasing capacity and services. Centralization and the quality of services from BIT has been so effective that not only do the Executive Branch departments and bureaus participate, but so do the Legislative, Judicial and Constitutional offices.
The evolution of the types of technology available has exploded. Mobility, network security and the Internet are a few technologies not common in 1996. BIT has assimilated those responsibilities and others with essentially a zero increase in full time employees. I/T capital expenditures have remained below pre-consolidation plus inflation levels. A non-consolidated I/T infrastructure would have spent far more than an inflationary increase over time. BIT learned to deal with the risk of enterprise wide failures such as: staying current with many business venues at once and prioritizing agency I/T investment portfolios with an ‘enterprise’ view.
BIT tackled shared infrastructure (data center and telecommunications) consolidation first; closely followed by shared applications, such as email, time accounting, budgeting and accounting. BIT aggregated diverse networks such as the Department of Labor and Regulation, Board of Regents and state government into a single network and later built the K-12 technology network into the same architecture.
This technology leveraging also allowed for significant and ongoing financial gains. A study in the early 2000’s showed that telecommunications services that BIT was subscribing to were far less expensive than other states across the country. A significant reason for this was the aggregate buying power of state government, higher education and K-12 negotiated through BIT. Further efficiencies came when data centers from the Department of Labor and Regulation, higher education and small server “closets” were consolidated. Professional environmental management was then applied to the consolidated BIT Data Center which helped establish a much higher standard of reliability and dependability for I/T services.
To fully leverage consolidation, standardization of I/T capabilities and services were also put in place. Flexibility is a must when it comes to meeting diverse departmental needs.
Taking an enterprise perspective vs. a departmental perspective is tremendously valuable. Examples include:
- Aggregating individual needs within a larger I/T architecture which means that a new application does not necessarily mean a brand new, unique physical server be brought online to deliver it;
- A new web application does not duplicate security mechanisms;
- Wireless needs can be incorporated so laptop computers can be used within state offices across the state.
In these examples, BIT can evaluate requirements for individual circumstances and draw upon an enterprise of services to best satisfy those needs. BIT’s role is to provide technology expertise to support our clients’ business needs. Our role is to take their business requirements and utilize technology know-how to improve their business services.
The world of I/T security continues to be an ever-expanding challenge in today’s environment. Consider the details of applying desktop, application, hosting and network security across multiple departments, three branches of state government and then also include 153 school districts. Building a core group of experts able to apply their knowledge across a broad base is significant. The savings in terms of efficiency and consistency of a centralized security approach become very clear. Sharing application developers across agencies spreads expertise and creates an environment that encourages mentoring and sharing of ideas.
A centralized organization is better prepared to provide deeper support for critical technologies and systems because there are more resources available. In addition, networking and hosting services are some of many other examples of professional, industry expertise being applied in a very efficient, broad manner across all forms of the public sector.
We not only provide I/T services to the Executive Branch agencies, but also to the Judicial and Legislative branches, constitutional offices, higher education, K-12 school districts, and local, federal and tribal governments. By requiring only one mainframe and using virtualized servers (also referred to as the "cloud"), our clients often gain a cost savings by sharing the same hardware and software. BIT also supports isolated equipment to meet unique needs (such as the Lottery computers). Many more services however, are shared by everyone and we act as the Internet Service Provider for 175,000 clients, in a state of over 814,000 citizens (state government alone has over 13,000 employees).
A consolidated development organization has the ability to move resources from project to project. This flexibility allows for individual agency needs to be achieved, but to also ensure statewide goals are met.
In addition, the K-12 services delivered in South Dakota are one-of-a-kind across the country. No other state offers the breadth and depth of technology services for their K-12 schools. BIT and the Department of Education and others are true partners in providing a unique stable of technology services to our schools. Email, distance learning, student information system, virtual schools, onsite technology support, security management, local content control and network management are just a start to the K-12 technology services all architected by BIT.
Energy Efficiency Improvements
Huge energy savings occur through consolidation in an overall reduction in I/T hardware with several data centers, multiple mainframes and virtualization (cloud) technologies. Using virtualization through newer server computers has also allowed us to continue to reduce the number of physical servers.
Today, clients expect to connect to “everything from everywhere at any time.” The historical model of a desktop computer or even a ‘dumb terminal’ is in the past. Building common technologies to support an increasingly mobile client base is complicated, expensive and expected.
The State of South Dakota built its own “cloud” long before the cloud-concept was coined. Storage is aggregated across multiple locations and technologies to serve a variety of application needs. Shared computing via the mainframe and virtualized server farm is a commonplace. “Shared” resources have been the standard operating method, not the exception. BIT provides common business functions across state government, such as email, e-discovery, time accounting and eligibility determination. BIT has one network offering voice, data and video technologies.
There are particular aspects of technology integrally built into the “BIT technology recipe.” These ingredients are commonly an afterthought from a departmental perspective. Backup and recovery, redundancy, high availability, data integrity, error handling, confidentiality, security continuity of operations are all incorporated by design. When taken as an after-thought, costs increase, resulting in services that are not nearly as effective.