Carol Fieldhouse

Chief of Technology, California State Board of Equalization

by / June 27, 2005
In March 2004, Carol Fieldhouse took over as chief of the 225-person Technology Services Division (TSD) of the California State Board of Equalization, and inherited responsibility for a $40 million budget. She is behind a push to move the board to Web-based services and develop a more user-friendly relationship with business.

Prior to joining the board, Fieldhouse served as the deputy executive officer of the Administration for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board. Her career in California state government spans 30 years.

What's unique your job at the Board of Equalization as compared to similar positions at other agencies? Several things are different; one is that the CIO is appointed by the elected five-member board. When you work for them, you've got four different views of what the board should be doing, which direction it should be going. The board is like an agency, with agency status, and we have four major departments and five divisions that constitute the executive staff. With all of them and the board members, it's like, "How do you balance all of those expectations?"

The board is also very high visibility because we are a revenue-generating agency. And as the CIO, you need to make sure your projects have as little risk as possible because we don't want to be on the front page of the paper.

How do you avoid risk in moving toward e-services? We take it in stages. You don't eat the elephant all at one time. We've been working on the back end, making sure we had a good, stable infrastructure, a good architecture on the back end.

Now we're going to take one baby step and put out our single location tax form. It's the simplest one we have and work with. We're going to put that into Web services later this year. Also, we're giving the business owner the option to no longer receive paper.

In terms of an IT project, what is the biggest challenge in the near future? E-services. Give [customers] that flexibility of not having to mail things, not having to deal with paper. We register about 200,000 new businesses a year. The businesses coming on are a lot of adults who grew up with computers. They would rather have the information available to them online. We're ready to move out to Web services.

What would you cite as your biggest accomplishment thus far? Working to improve customer service and trying to build a more positive perception for the Technology Services Division. You get this distrust of technology sometimes from your customers because they see things going in, like money and resources, and they don't always see things coming out. That's one thing being in a CIO-type position that I've learned -- the more you communicate, the better the perception, the better the customer service. I have a portfolio and can show anyone at any time the projects we're working on, the resources assigned to those projects and the costs.
Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor Justice and Public Safety Editor