For almost a decade, the California Department of Technology (CDT) has hosted an annual event, usually in December, to provide the vendor community with valuable information on how their companies can partner with the State of California. Needless to say, it has become a very popular occasion for vendors seeking to determine specifics on California’s multi-billion dollar budget for the upcoming year.

As with so much else these last two COVID-19 years, the vendor forum held on December 8 was again virtual but still attracted over 200 attendees who were also given an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback after the CDT’s formal presentation.

Due to its size, complexity and decentralized nature, California’s IT budget has always presented a substantial mystery for the vendor community when it comes to actually understanding what the state’s new IT initiatives will be over the next 12 months. While the Federal government is able to produce an IT Dashboard each year breaking down its nearly $100 billion IT spend for the coming fiscal year, by agency and by project, California has no such offering. Consequently, events like the vendor forum are an important resource as the state IT vendor community attempts to divine the tea leaves surrounding new state IT initiatives.

Hanging over the forum proceedings, of course, was last week’s surprising announcement by Governor Newsom that the Forum host and moderator Amy Tong, state CIO and director of the CDT, has been appointed the new director of the California Office of Innovation and will be leaving her state CIO post in January. Her Chief Deputy Russ Nichols will become acting state CIO.

Coming Procurements

The forum covered several key agenda items including: an update on procurement issues from Ana Lasso, director at Department of General Services (DGS) and new CDT Deputy Director for Statewide Technology Procurement Tiffany Angulo; security issues with state CISO Vitaliy Panych; a telework status report; and a CDT 2021 update and 2022 preview.

Carol Bangs, branch chief for acquisitions in the Procurement Division of DGS offered some news on her front. “We have a couple of different IT procurements that are of note. The first is the technology digital data master service agreement which is actually out on the street right now and it’s available for download on CaleProcure,” she said. The proposal conference is set for Friday, December 10, so listen up.

Tong highlighted a few other key procurements. “We wanted to get you notified about California Office of Emergency Services next generation 911 which will be coming out soon. This is the next phase in a 911 network that was expanded and modernized. So the first phase was awarded, and it was a cloud CPE. Now we’re looking for analytics and CAD interfacing.”

She also talked about the Public Utilities Lifeline Program and business opportunities there. “This program provides discounted home, phone and cell phone services to qualified households. So we’ll be looking for a solicitation for the vendors to host a system which a large component for a call center.”

There is also a pre-solicitation released by the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) seeking to provide a contractor developed, DMV maintained solution for electronic communications between existing state-to-state DMV systems and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. The pre-solicitation was posted on Dec. 8.

Cyber Roadmap

Perhaps the most significant development in the state security arena was last October’s announcement by Governor Gavin Newsom of the first-ever state cybersecurity road map – Cal-Secure. “As our state entities continue to keep up with the ever evolving threat landscape and attack surface, Cal-Secure emphasizes our increasing commitment to cybersecurity privacy and resiliency,” said CISO Panych.

Cal-Secure is intended to set the baseline and a framework for a multi-year phased approach for the purposes of attaining three equally important goals. “Number one, building a world class cybersecurity workforce; number two, enhancing federated cybersecurity oversight and how we measure and keep our state entities accountable, and lastly, building effective cybersecurity technology defenses,” he said.

Modernization Funding

It’s also the season of the technology modernization fund (TMF) and California is no different.

As Carolyn Nordstrom, CDT deputy director for the California Project Management Office explained, “CDT was fortunate to get about $25 million to allow us to demonstrate a new way of funding technology projects.”

Unfortunately, the state budget processes don’t always align well with the cycle or the needs of projects. This often results in delays in procurement. “So building on some work that was demonstrated in the Federal government with their version of technology modernization funding, we are going to be using this to fund small efforts that can provide high value services quickly,” Nordstrom said.

She outlined a TMF program to jumpstart proof of concept efforts and fund urgent needs as they are identified. The process will include a “shark tank” approach where a proposal, a readiness assessment, and a pitch will be presented to a selection committee of state agency and department executives. And – kudos to the state – “The executives will be program business executives, not IT folks,” Nordstrom explained. And all this is planned for the first quarter of California’s 2022 calendar year.

While $25 million may seem like a deck chair on the Titanic, a great journey is said to begin with small steps. The Federal TMF was launched with only $100 million in fiscal year 2018, and now it’s already grown to more than $1 billion. California, with its multi-billion dollar IT portfolio and scores of complex, multi-hundred million dollar legacy IT applications, is a rich target environment for TMF.

Tong and company concluded with a review of State Technology Strategic Plan – Vision 2023, a promise to update the state’s IT project approval process with the Project Approval Lifecycle (PAL), and a final look ahead to 2022 promising improved vendor engagement, with topic- specific “fireside chats,” which aim to be more frequent, more detailed and more interactive.

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John Thomas Flynn
John Thomas Flynn
John Thomas Flynn serves as a senior advisor for government programs at MeriTalk. He was the first CIO for the both the State of California and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and was president of NASCIO.