September 5, 2012 By Noelle Knell
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s technology secretary and other top officials shared details Wednesday, Sept. 5, of imminent efforts that could have a transformative impact on how the state conducts its IT business.
Leaders are preparing technology initiatives and strategies that should help the state cope with further budget cuts in future years, officials told a conference of technology industry representatives hosted by TechAmerica, a lobbying organization representing the U.S. technology industry. The featured series of speakers shed light on recent legislative and policy efforts involving technology in the Golden State.
Despite the recently approved reorganization that consolidates the California Technology Agency (CTA) within the newly created Government Operations Agency — a move some feared might hamper technology progress in the nation’s most populous state — the state’s technology Secretary Carlos Ramos described momentum on existing projects and forward motion on new IT initiatives in key areas. "For the most part, we remain intact," Ramos said of the reorganization and the IT agency’s future role. "We don't lose any responsibilities, and we don't lose any statutory authority."
According to Ramos, the CTA is preparing for additional belt-tightening that might result if Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative fails to win approval in the November election. Many efforts center around increasing online self-service options for citizen services. The California GeoPortal is complementing the work the state has already done with its mobile app store.
Now in beta testing mode, the portal will make 3,700 GIS based data sets available on a public website, in order to spur innovation, economic development and improved policy decisions. Ramos advised event attendees to expect a January 2013 launch date for the GeoPortal.
Ramos also discussed two upcoming cloud initiatives for the state, to help gain additional IT efficiencies. Within the next six to 12 months, the state will offer a private cloud through the Office of Technology Services (OTech). The private cloud will be used for systems Ramos described as mission critical. The next step will be the state's cautious entry into the public cloud, incorporating lessons learned from the initial private cloud efforts.
IT leaders plan to pay special attention to the type of data stored in the cloud, security protocols and reporting agreements with cloud service providers — concerns often cited by large public-sector agencies that have delved into cloud computing.
As for whether California is looking to follow in the footsteps of the federal government's Cloud First policy, Ramos held that as a distinct, although, future possibility.
"If we're able to successfully launch a cloud offering, especially one that's secure and that's reliable, I believe we could very realistically see a cloud-first policy," he concluded.
Despite what some feared was a shrinking of responsibility for Ramos and the CTA under Brown's reorganization plan, the agency is gaining responsibility for IT-related procurements — a duty that used to rest squarely with the state's Department of General Services.
General Services Director Fred Klass, also a featured speaker at the TechAmerica seminar, explained that his agency has drafted a set of proposed changes to the state's procurement processes, with significant ramifications for purchasing statewide.
Citing the success of the negotiation-based bidding process used for Fi$Cal, California's finance-focused ERP overhaul now in progress, Klass hopes to bring that same agility to other statewide purchasing efforts. He outlined draft changes that would grant the state the ability to negotiate with prospective bidders at all stages of the procurement process.
"The negotiation process may include persuasion, alteration of assumptions and positions, give and take and may apply to price, schedule, requirements, or other terms of the proposed contracts," the draft document states.
This significant shift, Klass explained, would ease frustrations felt by industry and government alike, where technology procurements can be so lengthy that the system in question is nearly obsolete once all procedures have been observed and the process concludes.
Draft changes also lay out specific roles for each type of participant in the process, including procurement officials (either in General Services or the CTA), the sponsoring department, the core negotiation team, state evaluation team and subject matter experts. Also included in proposed procurement updates are planning templates, and additional guidance to private-sector bidders.
Klass is hopeful that increased use of negotiation would benefit all kinds of procurement in California, and asked for feedback on the proposed changes.
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