• State CIO Ramos Reorganizes the California Tech Agency and Introduces New Team

    September 9th, 2011 by admin Categories: Blogs Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    State CIO Ramos reorganizes the California Technology Agency (TA) and formally unveils his new team; DGS Director Klass pours cold water on any TA plan for assuming IT Procurement operational role; Assemblywoman Buchanan provides California Budget Deficit primer.

    TechAmerica and Input held their 7th Annual California State Technology Executive Seminar before a packed audience of over 300 by our less than scientific count at the Sacramento Sheraton yesterday. Featured speakers included the crème de la crème of the state IT and related government society including State CIO and California Technology Agency (TA) Secretary Carlos Ramos, Department of General Services Director Fred Klass, Technology Agency Deputy Secretary of Operations Paul Benedetto, and Deputy Secretary of Policy Anna Brannen, and Chair of Budget Subcommittee #4, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan.

    The State CIO revealed that his first two months on the job and his meetings with state AIO’s and CIO’s as well as fellow Cabinet Secretaries and department heads left him with the distinct impression that the TA’s image was somewhat confusing – on one hand it was seen as a service provider to departments; on the other it was a control agency. Putting that confusion immediately to rest, Ramos announced he had formally split the TA into a services or Operational division, and a Control division, headed up by Benedetto and Brannen respectively.

    Ramos also emphasized the point that the AIO’s and CIO’s were virtually unanimous in their appeal for a stronger role, and a more collaborative working environment with the TA. They often felt “forced into decisions” rather than being part of the process. Ramos to some applause from state attendees said he intended to act upon these concerns, as he unveiled a slide of – Darth Vader – as the “image of the (old) California Technology Agency”. Previous State CIO Teri Takai was unavailable for immediate comment.

    Next, Carlos brought up the debacle over at the Court’s Case Management System (CCMS) project, lambasted again recently at the Little Hoover Commission hearing and in the State Auditor’s latest High Risk Report. In a clear message of his intentions on this issue, Carlos stated that CTA “would have to get involved”. This will certainly set up an interesting constitutional issue over executive authority on non-executive government IT projects, one that has been kicking around for many years. With the establishment of the TA, and the reality of the existence of billions in IT spending plans outside of executive departments, giving such statutory authority to the TA makes a lot of sense, as TechLeader.TV has opined in the past. As it is now, the proverbial train has left the station long ago, and by the time the legislature directs the State CIO to get involved, the wreck has already occurred. So by then it’s often too late, as with CCMS, and the project has to be shut down completely.

    In a related message, and perhaps indicating the unspoken “what keeps you up at night” question, Ramos emphatically stated at several points that he wants “No blowups” on his watch. (I can surely emphasize with that.) He said that this would be a joint responsibility of the state and the vendors, and that both would be expected to bring their “A Teams” to work on state IT projects.

    He also announced that there would be significant OTech rate cuts coming very soon, some by as much as 30%. This likewise was met with enthusiastic applause by the state folks.

    He also mentioned several major IT initiatives including Next Generation 911, FI$CAL, FTB’s Enterprise Data to Revenue, and a similar project at BOE. We find the latter two most significant as he pointed out they mark the state’s long awaited (by this reporter) return to serious “contingency contacting” or paying the vendor based upon actual new revenues derived from the project’s performance. FTB made headlines with their successes with similar projects 20 years ago; but they fell out of favor (DOF?) over the years, unfortunately. Hopefully we will see this as a new trend in state IT contracting.

    Speaking of IT contracting, Fred Klass was not one to equivocate when he took his turn at the podium ostensibly to discuss FI$CAL, but before he even opened his slide deck he made it very clear where he and DGS stood on the issue of authority for IT procurement. And in case there was any doubt his first slide sited state regulation chapter and verse whereby operational IT procurement was the responsibility of DGS. You may recall that the TA assumption of IT procurement authority not just policy was bandied about most favorably by the Little Hoover Commission last month at their hearing on AB2408 IT consolidation progress, while a stoic Carlos Ramos listened to it all with unpretentious amusement.

    Following Fred there was an interesting presentation by Assemblywoman Buchanan which she opened with the observation that she was the first legislator to address this Seminar over its seven year stretch. Given the legislature’s usual disinterest in technology unless it’s a large, over budget, behind schedule project, her presence was as welcome as it was rare. Her presentation began with a very simple illustration of the state general fund budget deficit, clearly revealing that there was a revenue problem, not a spending problem. Unmentioned was the exponential surge in total state spending over the last five years when you include Special Funds which last year alone amounted to almost 1 ½ times more than the general fund budget; but let’s not quibble over an extra $125 billion. She has been a strong supporter of the Technology Agency, and the remainder of her remarks continued to demonstrate that the TA has at least one good friend under the capitol dome. We spoke with her after the event and invited her to come on TechLeader.TV. I expect we will see her early next year.

    Another item of interest: Carlos introduced Adam Dondro as the new Acting Director of Communications replacing our friend Bill Maile who resigned last month to begin his own communications consulting firm.

    Last but not least we heard from brand new state Chief Information Security Officer Keith Tresh, formerly CIO for the California National Guard, who plans a thorough review of his office’s policies and a state cyber risk assessment in order to formulate an enterprise-wide mitigation strategy. He likewise echoed Ramos’ new collaborative management style which the CISO intends to utilize in working with state agencies. We spoke with the Colonel afterwards and we will look forward to having him as a guest on TechLeader.TV in the near future.

    A panel with all the participants and audience questions rounded out the festivities, and from our informal interviews afterwards, the event was considered well worth our morning… and TechLeader.TV agrees. Great job, Carol Henton…

    Here’s a link to all the presentations courtesy of TechAmerica and Deltek.

    And don’t forget to mark your calendar and watch our Webcast on September 21, 2011 at 11:30 AM PT when we will interview Carlos Ramos right here on TechLeader.TV.

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