Ohio's state agencies, local governments and schools face a critical dilemma that could force many to the breaking point. While public expectations for government services and education continue to grow, the already high costs of meeting those needs are rising at an even faster pace.
It's not a new problem, but the old solutions no longer work. There is little public support for higher taxes or fees that might help cover the gap. We can't attract businesses and young families to Ohio by cutting services. That old standby, "belt-tightening," is just not enough.
In the face of funding challenges, it's clear that our schools and governments must find new and creative ways to reduce their costs and improve efficiency. Shared services offer a new and better way.
Knowing that shared services can help resolve this dilemma, Gov. John Kasich's administration has released a comprehensive plan of action: Beyond Boundaries: A Shared Services Action Plan for Ohio Schools and Governments. The report outlines 10 recommendations and a roadmap for local officials to achieve cost savings through shared services.
Using real-life examples of successes already working in Ohio, the plan spotlights proven, positive results from collaboration that cuts across traditional boundaries and jurisdictional lines. For example, regional sharing of technology services (including data centers and cloud computing) could yield at least $91 million in savings over the next five years.
Immediate pursuit of technology-related shared services is important for three reasons:
- Schools and state and local governments dedicate significant resources to technology. Survey results indicate that the 1,789 local government respondents have 14,842 servers. At the state agency level, more than 5,500 servers have been identified.
- Technology has been one of the first places state and local leaders have pursued shared services. The survey results revealed that 10 of the top 30 shared services opportunities being pursued are in an area of IT.
- Platform and equipment standardization and data center consolidation will accelerate cloud computing adoption and facilitate shared services in other operational areas.
3,962 Number of units of government in Ohio, including counties, cities and villages, townships, public schools, courts, libraries and special districts
To increase the rate of adoption of shared services at the state level, the Ohio Department of Administrative Services Office of Information Technology focuses on improved governance, simplification of infrastructure, adoption of shared business solutions, and increased business intelligence and analytics. The department is interested in partnering with education and local government to boost efficiencies, reduce duplication and save taxpayer dollars.
Specific services to date have focused on server virtualization, shared infrastructure, network aggregation and consolidation, data center activities or migration, hosted VoIP and e-mail consolidation. Contracts supporting these efforts are available to education and local governments.
Those interested in shared services solutions should read Beyond Boundaries and take its lessons to heart. Although written for Ohio, it holds valuable lessons for communities in every state. The full report and related materials are available at www.beyondboundaries.ohio.gov.