September 8, 2011 By Brian Heaton
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Technology Agency (CTA) is being reorganized into two distinct sections that will separate service delivery from control functions such as policy and oversight, according to Carlos Ramos, secretary of the CTA.
Ramos unveiled the new organizational structure on Thursday, Sept. 8, at the California State Technology Executive Seminar, where public officials and members of the IT industry met to discuss California’s technology issues. TechAmerica, a technology industry advocacy group, hosted the event.
Under the new services arm of the CTA will be California’s Office of Technology Services, the Public Safety Communications office, an enterprise solutions office, the GIS solutions office and a new professional development office. The control section of the agency will consist of the policymaking, oversight and various administration functions.
Paul Benedetto, deputy secretary of operations for the CTA, and Anna Brannen, the agency’s deputy secretary of policy, will run each of the sections, respectively.
Ramos said he told Benedetto that his job is to make sure each of the offices focus on delivery of services, reducing costs and rates to customers, a high level of customer service, and identifying what types of services constituents want and how to deliver them on an enterprise basis.
Brannen’s tasks include increasing collaboration between the different departments so that the state gets a “tangible return and smart approach” in how it invests in technology, and making sure all policies, particularly the ones on the IT procurement side, foster competition.
“In my opinion, the more bidders you have, the better the deal we get,” Ramos said to the technology vendor-heavy crowd. “It’s better for the state and better for you all as a community, and we get better results.”
Surveying the Field
Ramos, who was appointed California’s CIO on June 27, admitted he kept a low profile for the first couple months of his tenure. He said the time was spent meeting with the state IT community and getting the “lay of the land” as to perception of the CTA.
The results weren’t overly positive, which led Ramos to the decision to restructure the agency.
“What I heard from them is that there is a lot of confusion as to what role CTA really performs,” Ramos said. “Are we a control agency, are we setting policy that other folks have to live under, or are we a service provider? It was very unclear to them.”
He added that officials in various California agencies — including state department CIOs — said they felt they were being forced into decisions such as consolidation and needed a stronger voice and better input into the CTA.
Ramos believes that a new organizational structure would help change the perception of the CTA across departments statewide.
“If there is a clarity of purpose, each office and person in those organizations know what their focus is,” he said. “You’re either customer service or you’re working on the control agency side. So I am quite hopeful that this will generate better results.”
Work in Progress
Ramos also reported on California’s ongoing work in IT consolidation. He revealed that as of July, 99.5 percent of network circuits are in migration, 99 percent of e-mail boxes are in migration and an overall 37 percent reduction of energy use. The reduction of physical space taken up by data center use is moving a bit slower however, being reduced by 44.7 percent.
The work is leading to savings that will be realized by various California departments and agencies in the near future, according to Ramos. Chief among those savings will be a forthcoming announcement regarding rate reductions for those using the state data center.
“We’re going to announce a pretty large rate reduction, in some cases up to 25 percent, which I think is pretty good for the state as a whole,” Ramos revealed. “I think that is going to generate a level of savings that I think will be very helpful to departments and agencies.”
Other projects being worked on by the state include a next-generation 911 system. California is looking into an IP-based data network for the system that will include voice, text and multimedia communication. Ramos said that nearly 70 percent of the calls to 911 in the state were made from wireless devices, which shows a need for an enhanced 911 system.
Although Ramos said the CTA doesn’t have an official role, he said his office is also watching the progress of California’s health benefit exchange eligibility system, the development of California’s Medicaid Management Information System, and the state’s court case management system. The California CIO called the latter project a “sticky situation,” as it is over budget and schedule. He added that the CTA may need to get involved to help bring the effort around.
The CTA’s new director of the Office of Information Security (OIS), Col. Keith Tresh, a former brigade communications officer who served in the U.S. Army in Iraq, spoke briefly about his role at the agency.
Tresh, who was appointed to his new post on Aug. 12, said Ramos outlined a few initial priorities that need to be addressed, including identifying California computer systems that are vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
The new OIS director revealed that he still needs to fully define what the state’s risk is before moving on to what needs to be done to mitigate any potential issues, giving the impression that it could be a lengthy process.
In addition, Tresh said that state computer security policies and procedures need improvement. He revealed that 19 standards, 14 policies and four procedures have been earmarked for work to make sure the CTA and California’s various departments and agencies are on the same page.
“What we really want to do is make sure what we’re putting out there is relevant, but not with a heavy hand,” Tresh explained, adding that like Ramos, he believes increased collaboration between the CTA and state offices is paramount.
“We want to make sure agencies understand that we’re here to help,” Tresh said.
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