Mar 27 2008

Talking Tech in Michigan

Wolverine State IT leader Ken Theis reflects on his new role.

Ken Theis recently took the helm of the Michigan Department of Information Technology. Managing an agency of 1,700 employees, he is charged with delivering technology services to state government and setting the strategic direction for state IT.

Before his promotion to director, Theis served as chief deputy director of the organization. He replaces Teri Takai, who took an IT job in California government.

StateTech’s Managing Editor Amy Schurr recently interviewed Theis about his plans for IT in Michigan.

StateTech: What are your goals for MDIT?

Theis: My goals include making Michigan government even more accessible to the citizens and businesses across the state, with new online services. In addition, I look to foster greater partnerships with local government and private partners across Michigan so that we can combine resources in order to utilize technology to bring greater efficiency to all levels of government.

StateTech: What are the biggest or most pressing IT challenges your department faces?

Theis: Every IT organization faces the security challenge, and we are no different. While I’m proud of the work we have done to keep our servers and desktops secure, and while I’m pleased that we have had no major breach of security, it’s a constant challenge. Last year alone, our security staff stopped 575,628 e-mail virus attacks, 6,930,040 port-scanning attempts for unauthorized access, 14,532,390 Web-based and HyperText Transfer Protocol attack attempts, and 91,122,051 spam e-mails. Another challenge for us is the recruitment and development of our IT staff. Michigan suffered a massive loss of IT talent as a result of an early-retirement program offered several years ago, and we have been unable to replace that talent due to budget constraints. Those same budget problems hamper our ability to train and develop the remaining staff that we have.

StateTech: What current IT projects is your organization focused on?

Theis: We are in the midst of finishing the consolidation of our data centers into three secure locations, as well as finishing the work to consolidate the state’s e-mail systems.

StateTech: Tell me about the data-center consolidation. Theis: Our data-center migration project, which consolidated 29 separate hosting centers, saved millions of dollars while improving the overall security and quality of our data centers.

StateTech: What technologies are you piloting?

Theis: We are continuing to monitor the success of Voice over IP as part of our pilot with the Department of Human Services. Our telecommunications staff played an instrumental role in helping the Department of Human Services transition to a VoIP system for many of their field offices in southeast Michigan. This represents a major transition for telephone-system operations in the Department of Human Services.

StateTech: What IT projects are on tap for the near future?

Theis: We have a number of large, high-profile technology projects that will be implemented. This includes a replacement of legacy systems at the Department of State and Secretary of State branch offices across Michigan; a project called CHAMPS, which will overhaul the state’s Medicaid system; a project called Bridges, which will replace and consolidate the eligibility systems for the Department of Human Services; and MBT, which will replace our key tax systems at the Department of Treasury.

The implementation of these major IT projects is critical to our department’s success and to bringing improved service to the agencies we serve.


Appointed: December 2007

Reports to: Gov. Jennifer Granholm

Previous posts: Chief deputy director, Michigan Department of Information Technology, and several business and technology leadership positions at General Motors

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in automotive and heavy equipment management at Ferris State University, Master of Business Administration at Northwood University

Michigan IT’s Stunning Successes

Ken Theis, director of the Michigan Department of Information Technology, reflects on some of the organization’s 2007 projects that demonstrate best practices.

  • Our Web site, as the result of a two-year project, now offers more online information and services to our citizens and businesses.
  • Our Information Security and Privacy Project, a three-year effort that encompassed 15 initiatives to offer greater protection for the state‘s Internet services, has protected the stateís network from more than 91 million virus attacks.
  • The primary computer system used by Michigan law-enforcement officers — the Law Enforcement Information Network — received a much-needed upgrade that put more crime-fighting tools at the fingertips of police officers. MDIT worked with the Michigan State Police to replace an over-40-year-old mainframe application with new technology that allows for enhanced security and functions that improve connections with all Michigan criminal-justice agencies. Thanks to the upgrade, Michigan can take advantage of enhanced features from the National Crime Information Center and National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.
  • We unveiled the new and improved Michigan Jobs & Career Portal ( The Web site, first launched in 2003, continues to grow and add new resources. Approximately 150,000 people visit the site each month. Users can search for jobs, explore careers, learn about new and emerging occupations, find out how to start a business, find workers, find financial aid and scholarships and locate businesses.
  • We completed Direct Certification, a project that electronically compares food-stamp data with our student-record database to automatically qualify students as eligible for free meals. This project was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is a prime example of how technology can make life better for Michigan, in this case by sharing data to ensure the state is feeding hungry children.
  • MiDrive is a newly launched Web site that interfaces directly with the Intelligent Transportation Systems Center (which manages strategically placed traffic cameras). This is one of the first spatial Web-services deployments between MDIT‘s Center for Geographic Information and another state agency. You can visit the site at
  • The Michigan Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS) continued its unprecedented growth in furthering interoperable public-safety communications during 2007. The MPSCS serves as the statewide radio system used by Michiganís emergency responders, utilized by 945 state and local agencies on an 800 MHz system with 210 interconnected tower sites. The system provides mobile radio coverage to 97 percent of the state of Michigan, 100 percent of the time, with more than 37,000 radios.
  • Our Center for Geographic Information worked to implement the Child Placing Network, which was created with information not previously available in one central location. It took extensive collaboration across departments and agencies to bring this innovative network to fruition.

The Child Placing Network gives foster-care workers and protective services the ability to quickly and more efficiently find the best placement for children in imminent danger due to abuse or neglect. It also helps to keep siblings together and to place children in their own neighborhoods and schools. This is an outstanding way to use technology and has drastically improved Michigan‘s child placements.

CDP on the Rise

Nearly every data-protection vendor has incorporated continuous data protection technology into its products. Here’s a sampling of offerings. (note to CDW: These prices were provided by individual vendors. CDW lists “call for pricing” for some of these. Can someone on your end please confirm or change the pricing as needed here?)

—Compiled by Deni Connor

Company Type of CDP File or Block User Self-Service
Atempo LiveBackup Continuous File and Block Yes
Bakbone Software NetVault TrueCDP Continuous File No (future)
CA Enterprise Rewinder/ High Availability (formerly WANSyncHA) Continuous File and Block Yes/No
CommVault Continuous Data Replicator Near-Continuous File Yes
Double-Take Software Time-Data Continuous File Yes
EMC RecoverPoint Continuous and Near-Continuous Block Yes
HP StorageWorks Continuous Information Capture Solution/HP OpenView Storage Data Protector Continuous/Near-Continuous Block/file No/No
IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files Continuous File Yes
Idealstor iBac CDP Continuous Yes Yes
Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager Near-Continuous File Yes
SonicWall SonicWall CDP 1440i, 2440i, 3440i and 4440i Continuous File and Block Yes
Steeleye Technology Data Replication for Windows/Data Replication for Linux Continuous and Near-Continuous Block No
Symantec Veritas Backup Exec Continuous Protection Server/Veritas NetBackup PureDisk Near-Continuous/Near-Continuous File/File Yes/Yes
Yosemite Technologies FileKeeper Corporate Near-Continuous File Yes