Lawmakers gain deeper understanding of the state information technology workforce
Story and photos by DEBORAH A. MILES
The Office of Information Technology Services (OITS) was established in November 2012 as part of the state’s IT transformation to consolidate and merge state agencies’ operations and streamline services. The goal was to reduce costs and improve services.
But that goal is still on the horizon.
Throughout the past four years, PEF Division 357 members at OITS have pointed out that prior to the consolidation, each state agency had control of its information technology needs. Agencies were satisfied and even several state employees were lauded for designing and implementing innovative and cost-effective techniques.
The consolidation at OITS led to privatization and the use of unqualified consultants, especially at the Level 1 Help Desk and Level 2 Break/Fix Department. Another recent issue was the plan to hire 250 consultants instead of advancing its own workforce in Special Expertise (SE) positions.
In the 2017 legislative session, PEF earned the support of the Legislature that rejected the one-house bill about the SE jobs.
On March 21, Division 357 members led by Council Leader Penny Howansky took their thanks directly to lawmakers and asked for their continued support during the remainder of the state budget process. As they spoke to a dozen state senators and Assembly members about their experiences and observations at OITS, their message was that the management style has basically crippled the advancement of technology in New York.
“We don’t have a plan to move forward and we don’t work as a business,” Howansky told Sen. Diane Savino.
“Our management does not include the workforce when implementing new technology or provide adequate training. It lacks in key planning and doesn’t realize we should all be working together. OITS needs a stable and solid workforce where dedicated employees, people with master’s degrees, can enjoy career mobility and a future that proudly serves the citizens of New York.”
Savino agreed, “You do not have a workforce that is being utilized the way it should be.”
Another PEF group met with Sen. Liz Krueger, and included members from the state Department of Financial Services. They also were concerned about the restructuring of its Civil Service title structure, cited examples of IT consultant use and how they are not invested in their jobs.
The members referred to a report prepared by the Office of the State Comptroller on the effectiveness of the IT transformation, which said, “There were significant deficiencies in planning the execution of the transformation, with little or no evidence that many basic planning steps were performed.” And, “ITS often did not provide timely or independent access to certain data and staff. Throughout the audit, we were presented with contradictory information when trying to obtain documentation and answers to
Krueger also expressed her support for the state workforce and encouraged members to persevere and to focus on creating new initiatives that may become models in the future.
One of the highpoints of the OITS lobby day was a visit with Sen. George Amedore, as he announced a new committee focused on IT.
“I am the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Technology and Innovation,” Amedore said. “The technology and innovation industries are the main drivers of the world economy, and I am excited to lead this new select committee that will explore ways to remove barriers and develop new policies and programs to establish New York state as a leader in these fields.”
Howansky and her team of Division 357 members were encouraged as Amedore spoke about collaborating with state agencies to create an advanced technology business climate and to improve programs, so IT can reach its maximum potential while protecting vital information.
“We don’t want our members to be left in the dark anymore,” Howansky said. “Our meeting with these lawmakers gave us hope that New York will once again be a leader in information technology, with a highly skilled state workforce. We will continue to raise our concerns until changes are made. It is not just for the workers, but what is best for New Yorkers. They rightly deserve a digital government.”