Texas county CIO streamlines, speeds up service delivery

When Christopher Nchopa Ayafor joined the technology agency supporting Tarrant County, Texas, in 2014, he was faced with three issues.

“Why is IT too slow to respond, why does IT cost too much money and how can IT innovate to move and carry forward the organization?” Ayafor says in a video interview with StateScoop.

Since joining the county, most of his initiatives have been tied to that, Ayafor says.

Under his leadership, the county developed a strategic plan that pointed to resolution on those three issues. In that process, Ayafor discovered that there were “a lot” of systems that were at the end of their usable life — or nearing it.

“Some of them were really mission essential systems that support the county’s mission critical operations,” Ayafor says.

At the time, the county was still running some operations off of an IBM mainframe that had been in place since 1964. That mainframe, Ayafor says, touched the county’s courts and justice operations — one of the critical operations of Tarrant County’s government.

In the years since, however, Ayafor says he and his team have focused on decoupling some of the critical apps from the mainframe, including those used by the prosecutor’s office, court systems and child support services.

“It became necessary that we should stabilize the mainframe environment, so we took on a big task to find what we call a mainframe retirement home to take on our mainframe for the purpose of providing stability during the next three to five years,” Ayafor says.

In that process, the county is replatforming some of the apps and services that existed on that mainframe to more contemporary and modern technologies like .NET and others.

“It was very complicated — if you think of a system that has been around for so long, it’s become really intertwined in the fabric of the organization,” Ayafor says.

The system used to cost the county “just north of about a couple million dollars” to run the mainframe. Now, with moving operations off of that mainframe and into more modern environments, the county was able to save about 43 percent of the cost of running that operation.