National Association of Counties
Washington, D.C.

 Oakland County, Mich., state enter ‘cloud’ collaboration

By Charles Taylor

Oakland County, Mich. and the state of Michigan have entered an IT partnership that both predict will save taxpayers money and expand “cloud” computing offerings for government-based software in the state.

The effort is called G2G Marketplace — for government-to-government — and the partners have issued a request for qualification from national IT companies to implement their plans.

Cloud.jpg“Collaborating with the state will broaden our ability to offer low-cost technology solutions to other governments,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said —  something the county already has a track record of doing within its own borders.

Phil Bertolini, deputy county manager and CIO, said it’s too early to quantify possible savings, until the private sector begins to respond with specific proposals.

State and county officials envision the marketplace as “a multimedia-rich information portal” where any government agency can research and access ecommerce, website hosting and other government solutions. It will be available to users by desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet or other mobile devices, and open to all governments to submit and share their own products and services.

Bertolini and the state’s CIO, David Behen, say the benefits are mutual. Because of the state’s involvement, Bertolini said the partnership could attract more private sector companies who might not have been interested in Oakland County alone.

Expected benefits of the G2G Marketplace, according to the partners, include less time and fewer resources needed to investigate vendor products and services, and to draft complex contracts and agreements with vendors; governments can use and pay for only the computing resources they need; and it offers vendors a unique and productive way to reach out to government customers.

“We originally put out our G2G Marketplace RFQ to invite the private sector to partner with us in providing cloud technologies to governments,” Bertolini said. “We put it out, and the state of Michigan contacted us because they have their MiCloud initiative.” He said the partnership seemed a perfect fit between his county’s existing G2G Cloud Solutions and the state’s MiCloud program.

Behen, a former Washtenaw County CIO and deputy county administrator, had worked with Oakland County for over a decade in his previous role. He said the collaboration can be a two-way street.

“In Michigan, we’re actually trying to flip it on its head too, and we’ve done it with networks,” he said. “For example, if a county or a city or somebody has the bandwidth or the network to allow us to jump on theirs, well let’s do that. It doesn’t always have to be the state providing the service or the county providing the service, but whoever provides that service the best, then we should jump on that.”

He cited GIS as a “great example” of a shared service, wherein one entity can act as service provider and other units of government can purchase that service and not have to build their own capacity.

  Bertolini said: “We’re excited to have the state come along with us. Because we think that’s a partnership that again will benefit everyone.

“The best part here is that it’s about governments sharing technology with other governments. I think that’s what everybody needs today with the tough economy.”