I've written before about the need for transparency in cost, particularly in a government setting. We're in the middle of a rate setting process, whereby we decide what rates our central services organizations can charge in FY2004.
As part of the this rate process, ITS, our central IT services organization is proposing to change how they charge for network connectivity. In the past they have charged per port. They are proposing charging per person. The cost would be linked to each user ID (UID) in the Utah Master Directory (UMD). I'm fully in support of this for a number of reasons:
- My goal is that employees be connected everywhere and that includes wireless. How do you charge for wireless on a per port basis? You can't. I'd rather we just gave each person access no matter where they are.
- Its easier to count people than ports. Making sure that agencies are accurately charged ensures that funds are being properly used (especially since network access can be paid for from a variety of sources).
- A large percentage of our cost is based on per-user licenses. If we're paying for a Groupwise license for each user ID, we should charge for each user ID. This gives the right pricing signal to the people doing the hiring and, again, ensures that funds are being used properly.
- Security is enhanced when the UMD contains valid, and only valid, logins. For example, when an employee leaves, we should be deleting their access. Linking a UID to money helps drive that behavior.
This change might be painful if not for the support GOPB and Legislative Fiscal Analysts in ensuring that budgets get changed to match the changes in costs brought on by the new plan. Overall, the change is meant to be revenue neutral to ITS.
I've heard some complaints about the fact that user count is linked to the Utah Master Directory. Those complaints seem to be of two kinds:
- ITS has control of UMD and can inflate the numbers. I think this is, in the first place, a little too paranoid. But in the second place, ITS doesn't control the UMD--DHRM does. The data about employees and who gets a login is driven by employee records controlled by DHRM.
- I've got more UIDs in UMD than I have employees. This is evidence of the benefits I've mentioned about. Already, you can see that better pricing data is forcing people to clean data up. It doesn't matter if those UIDs are valid or not, Utah gets charged for licenses regardless.
In short, while changes like this can be very painful and require a lot of work on many people's parts, we're doing the right thing here and we shouldn't be dissuaded because it looks difficult.