State Capitol: Major Changes Ahead for California Tech

Published On: June 8, 2021

California’s future is heavily invested in innovative technology, but numerous legacy IT systems across the state struggle to modernize, exceeding the budget, schedule, or both.  Moreover, the state lacks enterprise collaboration, with countless siloed platforms such as the often-cited example of 79 separate case management systems across 22 departments.

Assembly Bill 1323, introduced by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), aims to centralize all IT modernization projects through the California Department of Technology, giving them statutory authority to “identify and prioritize the stabilization and modernization of legacy IT systems across all agencies and departments.”   Now pending in the Senate, the Assembly recently passed the measure with no opposition.

Existing law states that the chief information officer of each state agency is responsible developing their agency’s enterprise architecture as it relates to legacy system modernization and other IT maintenance. If passed, AB 1323 would transfer the responsibility from the agency CIOs to the review and analysis of CDT.

At present, CDT only has the authority to fix problems rather than prevent them.  “Currently, CDT operates reactively to fix problems that have already occurred, and no central agency proactively plans and oversees IT projects,” according to a legislative analysis.

Additionally, CDT would be required to identify legacy IT system modernization efforts across the state actively and submit an annual report to the Legislature containing “an explanation of how CDT is prioritizing legacy IT system modernization efforts across state government; an estimate of the annual and total preliminary costs for each effort and for the entire state modernization portfolio; and the impediments and risks that could, or issues that already have, led to changes in how CDT identifies, assesses, and prioritizes modernization efforts.”

According to the analysis, the legislation:

  • Would require CDT to identify, assess, and prioritize legacy information technology system modernization efforts across state government.
  • Would require CDT to submit an annual report to the Legislature that includes: an explanation of how CDT is prioritizing legacy IT system modernization efforts across state government; an estimate of the annual and total preliminary costs for each effort and for the entire state modernization portfolio; and the impediments and risks that could, or issues that already have, led to changes in how CDT identifies, assesses, and prioritizes modernization efforts.
  • Would require all state agencies and state entities to submit all of their current IT service contracts to CDT before May 1, 2022.
  • Would require CDT to analyze the contracts submitted pursuant to the section above, and use the information obtained from that analysis to assess state IT investment in order to identify types of uses that are candidates for statewide contracts for commonly used or shared services; to create a replicable analytic approach to better understand user demand; and to inform management approaches regarding demand and supply.

AB 1323 is not without potential hazards or concerns. Primarily, the scope of the task to funnel all IT modernization efforts through one department remains daunting and logistically problematic.

The author hopes to prevent future IT failures, citing examples with FI$CAL, DMV, and EDD.

“When government websites and online systems don’t work, they have very real impacts on our residents,” Assemblymember Chiu said in an April press release. “This bill begins the process of reforming and unraveling the complicated web of antiquated and duplicative technology systems across state agencies.”

Meanwhile, in his May Revise Budget, Gov. Newsom has proposed a one-time $50 million increase CDT to identify and approve projects to quickly repair critical infrastructure in need of modernization.  State agencies will submit proposals to CDT and the Department of Finance to fund solutions that “allows for immediate remediation of risks through quick and efficient solution implementations.”   The effort calls for assessments of existing critical systems, and solutions to be considered for the greatest impact, such as risk reduction, return on investment, and quality of service improvement.

The modernization fund is part of CDT’s Vision 2023 initiative that will also fund projects on an iterative and ongoing basis to support teams that show quick progress.   The department is working with the Office of Digital Innovation to improve the customer experience for Californians.

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