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California CIO Discusses State's Cloud First Policy

CIO Carlos Ramos clarifies the California Department of Technology's stance on cloud-based projects and sheds light on the department's plans to reduce project risk, among other things.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The message from California CIO Carlos Ramos was clear: When state agencies need enterprise technology, they need to first look inward at what services are available in CalCloud, the state's cloud services platform managed by IBM and located within California's state data center.

Ramos' remarks were an attempt to clarify a September announcement requiring state departments to look to the cloud “when feasible.” The CIO's comments were part of a broader keynote address at the State of Technology California Industry Forum on Dec. 10, at the Sheraton Grand Hotel.

“We came out with a cloud-first policy because one, it offers a faster time to market, a reduction to risk and hopefully a reduction in cost,” Ramos said. “So fundamentally, our policy is this – if it's an enterprise service, we're going to try to stand it up at the data center.”

Wednesday's event was hosted by, which is published by Government Technology's parent company, e.Republic, Inc.

While Ramos acknowledged that some agencies have gotten ahead of the game by going to the cloud under their own contracts with vendors, he encouraged the private sector to make their services available to CalCloud directly to further California's “cloud-first” policy. Ramos also indicated that for “more unique” projects, state departments are still free to partner with vendors individually.

In addition to cloud, Ramos gave a high-level overview of the California Department of Technology's efforts to reduce project risk, improve IT procurements, and increase public-sector cooperation and information sharing.

Recalling when he first became California's CIO in 2011, Ramos noted that he heard complaints from state departments, the private sector and even the California Legislature about technology projects and procurement. As a result, over the last three years, Ramos and his staff have been developing a multi-stage process to improve project oversight and accountability in the California Department of Technology.

The steps include better understanding of the business case and what problem a project is looking to address; identifying an agency's capacity to do a project itself; and conducting business process re-engineering, understanding that procurement is part of a project's life cycle; and finally, getting more realistic baselines for projects.

“Our primary goal really was let's make sure systems, when they develop them, work, contracting relationships work and fundamentally, whatever changes we make, let's reduce the risk of failure and increase the capacity of the workforce,” Ramos said.

Regarding procurement, Ramos envisions a much more flexible environment featuring increased negotiation after bids are submitted and communication among all parties moving forward. Other steps the Department of Technology is taking include publishing draft RFPs so vendors have a better idea of what's expected and a renewed emphasis on addressing challenges ahead of time to make the procurement process more efficient.

The initial changes have been successful, according to Ramos. He revealed that statistics on state IT purchases have shown improvement, with the average procurement now taking about nine months.

“We are trying to address the issues that are concerns, primarily because we see them as being important in delivering technology for the state,” Ramos said. “We want partnership with the private sector … [and] we're trying to make reforms that make our processes and our efforts more efficient and smarter, and ultimately that deliver successful projects.”

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines from 2011 to mid-2015.