can't come from him alone -- such a plan is the result of an inclusive planning process.

"Ultimately, you get a decision from that board and from the departments of Finance and General Services -- the control agencies -- that this plan is implementable, that it's not pie in the sky, that it's a plan that we think the state can achieve," he said. "If you get that board and those agencies on record in support of that plan, that makes a huge difference. Staff [members] within those departments know what they're supposed to be doing."

Without a viable strategic plan, state agencies don't necessarily move in the same direction -- a danger California currently faces.

"The only thing the entire IT community can do is sort of think to themselves, 'How do I save money? Other than that, how do I respond to today's crisis?'" Kelso said. "It's impossible for Finance's staff, I think, to have a good sense of what the strategic direction for the state is. As a result, they get driven back to just sort of critical analyses of individual projects."

Important IT Improvements

Last year's Oracle situation also forced California to take a long look at IT financing and procurement.

The Department of General Services, by an executive order signed by Davis in May 2002, was directed to create a task force to review the state's contracting and procurement procedures. The task force also was asked for recommendations on statutory, regulatory or administrative changes necessary to "ensure that open and competitive bidding is utilized to the greatest extent possible" by state agencies. The task force released its final conclusions in August 2002.

One recommendation calls for California to create contracting officer positions at state departments. Kelso agreed that IT procurements could improve by giving procurement officers in departments responsibility and authority to engage in acquisitions, he said. The move would create a trained work force of procurement professionals within state agencies.

"When you ultimately get to the point where completion of training programs becomes tied to a department's delegated authority from the Department of General Services to contract -- so that the only people who will get delegations are those people who are coming through training programs, and they're the ones doing procurement -- as a de facto reality, you're creating contracting experts in departments," he said.

The state also is scrutinizing IT financing models, though there is no hard and fast timetable for IT financing overhaul or creating a centralized financing agency. Kelso said there's need for improvement in several existing financing mechanisms.

"One of the things we've learned over the past year is that sometimes when you finance an IT project, you may actually get hooked on the financing in a way that makes it very difficult to unwind the project if it needs to be unwound," he said. "I think what we're going to see first is a look at some of our more specific mechanisms of financing IT before considering any type of formal, financing agency."

Improvements to existing financing mechanisms may preclude the need for creating a separate IT financing entity or agency, he noted, and if the Legislature does pass a bill that creates an IT board, that board could assume that responsibility.

Coming Full Circle

In many respects, the future of IT governance in California comes back to the Legislature. Kelso said he hopes the introduction of new legislation to create some sort of IT entity will happen this year, and that he's talked with legislators, who agree it's an important topic that deserves attention during this legislative session.

The state has been down this road before, of course, with the 1994 legislation that created DOIT. It's no

Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor