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Minnesota Web Portal is Bogus


I like my Governor, Jesse Ventura, for the most part he does an excellent job and has picked a good staff if he runs again I will vote for him.

Even so, just like many companies and institutions the State of Minnesota has been sucked into a bogus Web Portal project. And even worse, it uses a "Big Five minus one" consultant company called Deloitte Consulting. After the Andersen consulting and auditing meltdown with Enron the state should be very careful of "big four" bullshit. So I wrote a letter.

Note: August 14, 2002 the Minnesota Portal Development Site page has de-emphasized many of the references to lame "features" I made in the article. At least I have had the effect of improving the state propaganda line so my home state looks less like a bunch of dumb asses.

Note: August 2005, nothing seems to be done but site hosting, a search engine and unspecified non-existent "Information Architecture." Hooray for the charts and graphs, let a new budget cycle begin to benefit Deloitte...

Dear Governor Ventura,

The Office of Information Technology "Portal" project is costing 30 some million dollars. This project would be a great candidate for a line item budget cut. As a small businessman running a database administration company I can tell you that a "Portal" is the front end only. It does not affect the real work of getting data to the public or the office procedures or data needed to handle a license application or paying taxes by the web.

Hosting web sites touted as a big "Portal" feature is now a commodity service worth only a few hundred or a few thousand bucks a year and not a big deal costing thirty million smackers. A search engine to spider state sites to help citizens find information is also a commodity. Google, known as the best search engine, offers a turn key solution for far less than 30 million bills, more like $3,000 or a hosted site search. But Deloitte has picked Inktomi, an expensive product that powers the search engines where you can't find what you are looking for. Personalization of the web site portal is touted as a big $$moola feature, of course it is the opposite of standard look and feel of an interface. It is a worthless bell and whistle that will be used by very few citizens, maybe only the lobbyists. Is that worth 30 million skins? Polls are also touted as a big cash feature but that is a nothing and every web site has a worthless poll. It does not cost 30 million semolians to ask citizens "Do you feel taxes are wasted?" Standards for state websites are a "good thing" but standards do not cost 30 million dead presidents.

My understanding is that an expensive piece of "Portal" software is needed by all departments and offices in the state for the "Portal" and that software needs expensive training. And of course, huge payments to the "Big Five minus one" consultant firm of Deloitte Consulting. These consulting firms are nothing but mouths full of gimme and hands full of grab and that is where the 30 million in taxes is going.

Buried in the "Portal" project is something about the information architecture of the state. This may have some value but I question the ability of Deloitte to do what must be done by the state itself, which is to organize and coordinate its information department by department and make it available to the public.

The real services I see in the project: web hosting, search engine, state web standards and usability are closer to one million greenbacks and the rest is a rake-off by rip-off consultants. I repeat, actual application information architecture must be done by the state itself, by those that know the data and the processes of the state.

What this project reminds me of most is past Office of Technology spectacular failures. Typical state web project done by "big four" consultants. Remember the Governor Rudy Perpich "Brain Power" initiative of the late 1980's? The Brain Power initiative was a plan to use "artificial intelligence" to enhance the functioning of state offices. Unfortunately no one can really define what artificial intelligence is and no one can really define what or why a "Portal" is needed by the state it is another buzzword solution looking for a problem that also came out of the Office of Technology and some consultants.

The "Brain Power" project was ill-defined and expensive, it sucked up resources in many departments and involved the purchase of expensive software and hardware and of course, huge consulting fees just like the "Portal" project. The plan is that the state buy the software and hardware way too early, buy expensive training with no real use then the consultants who are smart run away to the bank at this point.

As I recall, the "Brain Power" initiative ended in a spectacular failure and millions of 1980's dollars were wasted and it also ended up in the front page of both the St Paul and Minneapolis newspapers. The main product was some "Welcome to the Brain Power State" highway signs that offended the Cheese Heads, Pig Farmers, NoDaks, SoDaks and Canuks that border our state. Some of the contractors ran, others declared bankruptcy, a few public servants were replaced or shunted aside to bureaucratic backwaters but not before it helped put the "Governor Goofy" tag on Rudy Perpich.

I hope the State will not continue those past mistakes but I am disturbed by the obvious warning signs that this Portal project is a major state wide blunder. I repeat, this project would be a great candidate for a line item budget cut.