Calif. lawmakers to scrutinize IT plan

Creation of new department unlikely

Gov. Davis' plan

Key elements of the proposed plan for managing the state's IT resources:

  • The chief information officer is responsible for strategic planning and leadership.

  • The departments of Finance, General Services and Personnel Administration, known as the control agencies, are responsible for statewide policies, procedures, approvals and oversight.
  • The departments and agencies are responsible for operational planning and implementation.

  • An information technology board will coordinate and review strategic plans, control agency programs and operational implementation. The board will consist of the directors of Finance and General Services, the state CIO and two members with IT expertise appointed by the CIO. One must be from a college or university.

What the board will do

  • Review and approve the state CIO's strategic plans. Review will be limited to issues related to implementing the plan. The CIO will resolve architectural and technological issues.

  • Require departments and agencies to submit comprehensive plans addressing business needs, projects and IT infrastructure.

  • Periodically review project initiation, oversight and security programs at the Department of Finance and the IT procurement program at the Department of General Services.

  • Conduct public hearings for select projects, discuss findings and recommendations and, as appropriate, suspend, reinstate or terminate a project with 30 days notice to the legislature.

  • Review large, complex integration projects that cross departmental boundaries or have statewide implications.

  • Establish working groups of state employees to advise the board on specific topics.

  • Provide report to the legislature by Aug. 21 annually.

Source: California Governor's office

"The state hasn't decided statutorily how to manage its IT responsibilities, [so] everybody is reticent to propose new IT projects in the absence of some kind of a governance process." ? Steve Kolodney, American Management Systems Inc.

WT file photo

California Assemblyman Manny Diaz said the plan may be revised substantially following upcoming hearings.

At the request of California Gov. Gray Davis, state CIO Clark Kelso (right) devised a new plan that calls for a management board to oversee the state's IT systems and resources.

California lawmakers begin hearings later this month on the governor's information technology governance plan aimed at creating an enterprise approach to the state's technology investments.

Lawmakers are expected to question whether Gov. Gray Davis' plan, which calls for creating a management board to oversee IT projects and spending, provides enough oversight and accountability.

But they likely will stop short of creating a new IT department, in part because of the state's huge $35 billion budget shortfall, said Assemblyman Manny Diaz, chairman of the California Assembly's Budget subcommittee on information technology and transportation. The previous Department of Information Technology operated on a budget of between $10 million and $12 million annually, he said.

The Davis administration and the California state legislature have been at loggerheads for nearly two years since a scandal erupted when state technology officials awarded a $95 million software enterprise licensing contract without competition to Oracle Corp. of Redwood Shores, Calif. It led to the demise of the California Department of Information Technology when legislators refused to renew its charter last June.

Some major IT projects have been hurt by the lack of a strong governance plan, and state enterprise initiatives are at a complete standstill, according to analysts and industry officials. A couple of projects feeling the absence are a system for tracking youthful offenders and a system for providing unemployment insurance.

State agencies also are using the California Multiple Award Schedule less frequently, the officials said.

"The state hasn't decided statutorily how to manage its IT responsibilities, [so] everybody is reticent to propose new IT projects in the absence of some kind of a governance process," said Steve Kolodney, vice president of public-sector services at American Management Systems Inc., Fairfax, Va. Before joining AMS, Kolodney spent 11 years in a technology leadership position in the California state government and was chief information officer of Washington state.

[IMGCAP(2)] Despite these problems, some key projects, such as a procurement tracking system and a child support system, are back on track and moving forward, said a state legislative staffer familiar with the issue.

"There's not a reluctance to propose something, but there is a reluctance to do anything without getting 100 people to sign off on it," he said.

Davis issued an executive order last May instructing state CIO Clark Kelso to come up with a new plan for overseeing the state's IT systems and resources. The plan, which has been reviewed by the California Legislative Analyst's Office, may be revised substantially, depending on the outcome of the hearing, Diaz said.

"It's anyone's guess at this stage how fast or slow this thing is going to move," Kelso said of the legislation.

Two separate bills have been introduced in the legislature this year. Sen. Dean Florez introduced Senate Bill 791, and Diaz introduced Assembly Bill 717. The former closely follows the administration's proposal, while the latter was introduced without specific language pending the outcome of the hearings.

As set forth in Davis' plan, the proposed management board would adopt statewide strategic IT plans to support operations and conduct ongoing reviews of the state's IT procurement, oversight and security programs.

The intent is to leave the operational responsibilities within the agencies and organizations where they already reside, such as the departments of Finance and General Services, and "not try to create a new organization, whole cloth, at a time when there are severe budget shortfalls and a shifting sense of priorities in state government," Kolodney said.

The board would comprise the directors of the departments of Finance and General Services, the state CIO and two people with expertise in IT appointed by the state CIO. Additional members are likely to be drawn from either higher education or local government, Kelso said.

In a blunt critique of the administration's plan, the Legislative Analyst's Office said it lacks key details regarding the leadership roles of the state CIO, of the board's authority and of the oversight roles of the board and control agencies.

If a permanent governance structure becomes law this year, the new management board might be able to turn its attention to taking an enterprise approach to key business functions of government, data center consolidation and IT infrastructure management and operations, Kelso said.

Diaz said he was uncomfortable with the proposed governance plan because it does not seem to put sufficient mechanisms in place to ensure strong oversight and accountability.

John Kost, vice president of public-sector research at the market research firm of Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn., said the plan doesn't give the state CIO or the management board sufficient authority to enforce IT policy. The state CIO and the board would have no control or authority over the development of policies and procedures, project approval and funding, oversight and operational implementation, he said.

"Such an approach has not succeeded in any other state," Kost said. *

Staff Writer William Welsh can be reached at

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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