Ritter to Overhaul State Computer System

As The Denver Post reports:

Gov. Bill Ritter announced a plan Thursday to revamp the state’s splintered process for buying and installing new computer systems – a move that is intended to prevent another round of costly meltdowns.

Over the past four years, the state has spent up to $300 million on failed computer systems, staff time, legal work and other costs related to crashing computers.

“I can’t say a bad ideology drove them to make mistakes,” Ritter said. “But you wound up seeing a great deal of money that was badly spent, and we’re not going to throw good money after bad.”

Ritter unveiled the plan to bridge the state’s digital divide during a trade group meeting in downtown Denver.

“We’re going to do it by tapping into your private-sector expertise,” Ritter said in a speech to the Colorado Software and Internet Association.

Colorado’s failed computer systems were one of the great troubles of the end of the Bill Owens era. As the Post outlines:

Colorado’s computer troubles

CBMS – The $223 million welfare-benefits system, developed by EDS and used by the counties and the state, has been hampered by many problems since it was unveiled in 2004. In April, the federal government ordered the state to repay $11.2 million in overpaid benefits.

CSTARS – The Department of Revenue’s new program stalled in April, after the state spent about $10 million. The program by Avanade was providing incorrect information to some law enforcement officers.

ERP – The department of transportation’s computerized paycheck system delivered loads of problems late last year and early this year. The $38 million system was developed by SAP.

Genesis – The state paid $24.2 million to Accenture to update its unemployment insurance program. The total contract was $40.8 million, but officials terminated the program in December 2005. Key parts of the program – monitoring taxes paid by employers and benefits paid to workers – don’t work.

SCORE – Accenture was hired to provide the program for computerized voting records, but the contract was canceled in November 2005. The state had spent $1.5 million on the $10.5 million contract, but the contractor “missed every deadline.” In late December, the company agreed to refund $2 million.

13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Emma Anne says:

    Anyone know what the bad ideology leading to mistakes comment is about?

    • OscarTheCouch says:

      As if I hadn’t annoyed DavidThi808 enough yet today.  🙂

      • windbourne says:

        It was a mistake right from the gitgo. The companies that they pulled in were all ones that the pubs owed. This was not a case of best submission. But in the end, what they did was to take working unix and mainframe systems out and try to replace them all at 1 time with Windows tech. Yeah, the state pushed MS even when some of the consultants where saying that it would not work. But hey, if Owens wants to throw money out the door. Who can blame the consultants.

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:


        Yes I was a senior developer on the Windows team at MS. But at my present company we actually created the program in Java first and then ported it to .NET also. So we’re pretty agnostic on Windows vs Java.

        With that said, if I had to write an enterprise level app today, I can give you very good arguments for either Java or .NET. But what’s key is to have a good dev team to architect, design, and code it. Java and .NET are very similiar tools – it’s the skill behind it that matters.

        thanks – dave

      • CrazyOkie says:

        is PowerBuilder – perhaps that is what he is referring to as Bad Ideology!

    • Another skeptic says:

      Is there a state with a big centralized system that can be replicated with little effort in Colorado?

      If not, don’t go there.

      Dozens of Federal agencies and large corporations have stumbled installing centralized multi-functional, multi-department computer systems.

      Whoever is selling the concept to Ritter is conning him, I’m thinking.

  2. CrazyOkie says:

    Hey, they are already working with the largest players in the industry:  EDS, SAP, Avanade, Accenture.  I’m not sure that statement makes any sense.

  3. What? EDS? That paragon of workers rights? Do crappy work?

    Say it ain’t so.

    Their stock’s done so well over the years:

  4. The realistThe realist says:

    . . . about my several years of experience on one of the state’s computer projects that seems to no longer make the “Colorado Computer Troubles” list — Colorado Trails.  The project began in December 1997 and its purpose was to build an automated case management system for child welfare and youth corrections.  The development/test/implementation process took twice as long as initially planned, and I no longer remember the size of the cost overruns. 

    As a subject matter expert on that project, I can tell you that the state’s problems had only a little to do with the quality of vendor technical staff.  It had much more to do with not having an organized and effective way to prepare state non-technical staff on how to participate in writing specs for the system, and in not having an effective way to monitor the work of vendor staff AND use the power of (withheld) money to ensure that the work was done correctly.  The system was rolled out years late with HUGE performance problems which took at least 5 years to bring to a manageable level, I believe. 

    It’s not technology that Gov Ritter and his staff need to understand, it’s the development/test/implementation PROCESS and the training of nontechnical state staff which needs to be fixed.

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