Can California get ahead of IT project failures?

Published On: February 18, 2021

California government is trying to get ahead of state IT project failures, said Chief Information Officer Amy Tong last week at a budget hearing.

Answering questions from Assemblymember David Chiu, a frequent and vocal critic of failed state IT projects such as recent examples at the EDD and DMV, Tong made her case for more resources and oversight authority.

“Just like you [Chiu] described, we are in many times our operating like an ER doctor is because the fact that on a day to day basis, each of the departments, and there are 130 plus state entities, each one of them has their own IT shop, and each one of them has their IT budget and makes IT project investment decisions, with the exception, the ones that are over a certain threshold, which is what you see in the overall IT project tracking list,” said Tong.

The Newsom Administration is requesting 17 additional positions and $11.4 M in 2021-22, $9,4 M in 2022-23, and $6.4 M ongoing to “invest in proactive measures to stabilize critical services and enhance performance statewide, particularly in light of the challenges faced during COVID-19.”

“If we can actually have more visibility to the database expenditure, the decision-making, and be more embedded with the department, we can be more into what I call preventive care as opposed to emergency responsive care in terms of the health of the IT investment at the particular program department,” Tong continued. 

The budget proposal is part of a plan laid out in CDT’s “Vision 2023,” California’s technology strategic plan released on Jan. 15,  which offers key goals that include delivering easy-to-use and inclusive public services and creating “challenge teams” to begin work early in 2021.

“I absolutely support your budget request,” Chiu said. “I actually think the state would be better served if we did a better job of centralizing the thought process, the strategy, [and] budget oversight within your department.”

Generally supportive of the budget proposal, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) expressed concerns over a lack of key details such as the length and scope of deep-dive service assessments, the transition from short-term crisis management to long-term IT project planning, and reporting mechanism to the Legislature and other stakeholders. 

About the Author: Will Keys

Will Keys writes about technology issues for the GovReport. He is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at will at govreport.org