California struggles with change

State reorganization effort still incomplete

When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took the helm of the country's largest state, he had grand plans for reorganizing California's government, with technology playing a starring role.

A year after the California Performance Review outlined ways for greater efficiency, the administration has scored some wins and pushed other recommendations aside.

"There is a lot of the program that is still on the launchpad, and therefore a lot of the savings and a lot of the benefits have not been realized," said Fred Thompson, vice president of management and technology at the Council for Excellence in Government. "The bigger part of the agenda is ahead rather than behind, and that will require a push by the administration and the [chief information officer] leadership in the state."

The review last year gave Schwarzenegger a report recommending more than 1,200 ways to improve government operations that would save more than $32 billion in the next five years. The report mirrored the President's Management Agenda, addressing information technology, procurement, performance-based budgeting and workforce management.

California CIO Clark Kelso said that rather than moving forward on a single massive proposal, officials set out to tackle needs piece by piece. Most of the technology- related plans are still under way, he said.

One of the most visible successes is the creation of the Department of Technology Services, which consolidated two large data centers and the state's telecommunications operations. DTS will have a $235.4 million operating budget and about 800 staff members, officials said.

Another coup is a strategic sourcing effort, aimed at making smarter bulk technology buys, Kelso said. This summer, state officials completed the first round of procurements under the new process, which involved more planning, for the purchase of desktop PCs and related devices. Under seven contracts worth $116 million, officials expect to save an average of 15 percent on peripherals and 40 percent on printers.

"We successfully executed a new model for IT procurement that involved a good seven or eight months of planning that was collaborative across the executive branch," Kelso said.

Still in the works are e-government services, such as upgrading the state's Web portal and offering more transactions online.

Data sharing is lagging. But before tackling that initiative, the state must first develop an enterprise architecture plan, Kelso said. Last month, officials approved the methodology for developing the architecture, largely based on the federal framework. Officials expect a draft by April, he said.

The review panel recommended that the state create a separate Office of Management and Budget to oversee all statewide operational services. California's OMB would work with the CIO to consolidate project management, research and development, and telecommunications.

However, that vision fizzled, Kelso said, because some critics were concerned that the office's reach would be too extensive and that it mixed budget planning with operational activities.

"This is not one that anyone is talking about anymore," he said. "There are a lot of other recommendations that we can implement and do a great job of improving things."

However, Carl DeMaio, president of the Performance Institute, said the oversight office proposal should be revived.

"The challenge is for [California] to continue to learn from the ideas that have been successfully applied to the federal government," DeMaio said. "The ideas in the [review] need to be cascaded into each of the departments. That is what is missing, [and] that is up to the administration." n

Michael is a freelance writer based in Chicago.

What it takes

One year after the California Performance Review presented recommendations on how to improve the state government's efficiency, progress has been spotty.

Some completed projects include:

  • A new process for strategic sourcing.
  • The creation of the California Department of Technology Services.
  • Online travel reservations and driver's license renewal.

Initiatives still on the launchpad include:

  • A statewide enterprise architecture.
  • An overhaul of the state's Web portal.
  • Standards for an enterprisewide budget and accounting system.
  • Revisions to IT classifications for the state workforce, a new testing process and a survey of compensations to stay competitive.

— Sara Michael


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