• Lt. Gov Holds Nothing Back in Scathing Indictment of State IT Performance

    December 12th, 2013 by admin Categories: Blogs Tags: , , , , , , ,

    Gavin Newsom was the keynote speaker before a near full house in the Secretary of State’s Auditorium in Sacramento on December 2nd at #Innovate, a conference on technology and innovation in government sponsored by CALinnovates and our friends at Techwire. He certainly seized upon the opportunity, and in spite of the overall upbeat conference theme, proceeded to castigate the state’s IT record in a polemical tour de force worthy in tone and temper to St. Augustine facing off against the heretical.

    Newsom’s opening salvo before an audience compromised of state IT officials, the state IT vendor community, and a few Silicon Valley types, summarized the portfolio of problems he would delineate over the course of his 35 minute oration branding the state’s system of IT procurement, management and implementation “broken, outrageous and cannot continue”.

    He was careful to qualify his remarks as not being aimed at individuals, but the “system”; however, nearly everyone in the room from State CIO Carlos Ramos to state vendor account managers could not have been comfortable at the prospect of the bloody body count soon to follow.

    Interestingly, after this fiery introduction the Lt. Governor flashed back to President Obama, and with all of us expecting
    comparison to the technology debacle of the Affordable Care Act, instead he spoke of candidate Obama, and his technology juggernaut, a bottom up platform of citizen engagement. Obama’s Yes We Can morphed from a campaign theme to a transition initiative for the President-elect, and a promise that citizen engagement would be the hallmark of his administration, embodied in his new website, Change.gov. There Americans were invited to prioritize the most  pressing issues on their minds.

    “The War on Terror, Iraq, Afghanistan, the financial meltdown, climate change”, Newsom continued, “and the number one
    issue on people’s minds was… legalizing marijuana.”

    And the result, the new administration turned off the web site, and ignored the event. “The bottom up Candidate had
    become the top down President. Yes We Can became Yes He Can.”

    The Obama Administration had shifted into the old model of governance, and this was not just an indictment of the administration, but of governance in general and in particular, the one in Sacramento. Newsom intoned that people are increasingly frustrated because they see a world changing, but their government does not do so at all.

    He cited The Standish Group and their figures showing that 94% of all large IT projects fail. State and local IT projects arrive on time/on budget only 5% of the time. And in fact, 40% are simply abandoned. Then he recited the all too familiar litany of state IT disasters introduced by the jest that “state technology is cutting edge…, cutting edge of  1973. A $500 million IT project failure at CalPERS; a $370 million abandoned payroll project at the Controller’s Office; a $1.9 billion courts case management system; and these were just the recent examples.”

    He next turned his rhetorical cannons on the state’s abandonment of its open data portal which had been designed to make
    available data captured in the vaults of government systems created through all the taxpayer financed state IT projects. Newsom even went so far as to lightheartedly threaten to issue an Executive Order the next time the Governor left the state to resurrect the portal. And TechLeader.TV is not thoroughly convinced that he didn’t mean it…

    He illustrated perfectly and succinctly the validity of the practice using the example of President Reagan’s decision in the 1980’s to open the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite mapping data to the public. It has spawned an entire new series of industries involving GPS that continues to this day and certainly well beyond – from simple route information for drivers yesterday, to driver-less cars tomorrow, and who knows what next.

    It isn’t difficult to see the implications of allowing private businesses and private citizens online access to this data currently locked up in government storage jails. There were several company founders who preceded the Lt. Governor who described how their businesses were started because of the open data policy that Newsom instituted while Mayor of San Francisco.

    He strongly urged Governor Brown to do the same thing…

    He maintains that the current state government is stalled, afraid to make decisions. “It’s opaque, closed, insular, top down and hierarchical and needs a new culture of radical openness.”

    He saved his most seething comments for the State of California’s “cautious” cloud strategy, sarcastically labeling it “wonderful”, but which he branded part of the “incumbent protection act”. Instead of following the federal government and 13 other states on a “cloud-first policy”, the state will continue to plow ahead primarily with expensive, inflexible, industrial age infrastructure investment.

    He found it inconceivable that the state would issue a cloud “Request for Information, an RFI” this past summer when other states, the feds and of course the private sector are forging ahead with actual implementations.

    “It’s a cultural thing, not a technical barrier”, said Newsom. “The greatest risk to the bureaucracy is to change things; and the bureaucrats will say, ‘My friends with the old contracts will connect the dots, and I’ll be safe’.”

    Likely many in the audience began to squirm as the Lt. Government bemoaned the IT procurement system saying, “The vested vendor interests are writing the RFI’s, RFP and RFQ’s. Their lawyers are working full time. The new information age companies like Appallicious don’t have the capacity to compete against these vested interests. It’s more of the incumbent protection act, an IT cartel, a closed system in a radically open world.”    (Wow! I think TechLeader.TV has a witness in the Lt. Governor’s Office.)

    He closed with explaining how the Obamacare Exchange IT debacle had 47 vendors involved and all but one had a long history in federal IT procurement. “Don’t you think our state CalCloud will have a similar fate?” he asked rhetorically.

    His parting words, “We don’t need IT reform, we need IT reimagined, with the watchwords being:

    Mobility, Local, Social, Cloud and Crowd.

    P.S. Techleader.TV has learned that the Department of Technology has just announced that the CalCloud procurement notification of award has gone out this week to:

    International Business Machines Corporation

    Plenty to chat about when the Lt. Governor comes to TechLeader.TV on March 10th; hopefully we’ll see you then…

    Seriously, watch the whole thing on Techwire’s site here. It begins at 22:50 of the video.




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