California Gov. Proposes New Office of Digital Innovation

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new Office of Digital Innovation and innovation academy in the state's proposed 2019-20 budget. He's calling for significant change in state IT governance and procurement practices.

by Kayla Nick-Kearney, Techwire.net / January 11, 2019

(Techwire) — One day after proposing a major shift in California tech procurement, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced plans to transform digital innovation in state government. 

In releasing his proposed $209 billion 2019-2020 budget, Newsom announced a plan for a new Office of Digital Innovation and an innovation academy. The office would reside under the Government Operations Agency (GovOps), with an initial startup budget of $36.2 million. The office would employ 50 people and have an annual budget of $14.6 million.

Newsom's budget announcement does not mention the California Department of Technology (CDT), which initiated its own Digital Services Innovation Academy last May, headed by state Chief Innovation Officer Scott Gregory. DSIA is one of four CDT academies, the others being the flagship Information Technology Leadership Academy, the Project Management Leadership Academy and the Information Services Leadership Academy. 

The Innovation Office "will have the authority to develop and enforce requirements for departments to assess their service delivery models and underlying business processes from an end-user perspective," Newsom's budget statement says. That places the Innovation Office over other departments when it comes to service delivery.

“Government Operations Agency and the Department of Technology will be working together with the governor’s office on the proposed Office of Digital Innovation," GovOps Deputy Secretary for Communications Lynda Gledhill explained to Techwire in an email Thursday afternoon. 

"Details will be worked out as we go through the budget process,” Gledhill said. 

Techwire contacted CDT for clarification about any changes in the department's role or functions; the department referred inquiries to GovOps. 

According to the plan in Newsom's proposed budget, the Innovation Office will prioritize:

  • IT and innovation training. The proposed budget says all state supervisors, managers and executives will be required to attend training through a new innovation academy that will highlight change management and continuous process improvements. Project managers and state IT staffers will receive training that prioritizes iterative methodology and agile development, focusing on using modular procurement instead of single-vendor delivery.
  • Focus on the customer and service delivery. Implementing user-centered design and feedback loops will assist the office in creating "a culture of continuous program improvement and 21st-century delivery methods," the budget statement says.

Newsom's budget proposal also directs the Innovation Office to coordinate similar services with departments and stakeholders across the state. In order to do that, an additional $20 million has been set aside for the office to demonstrate transformational service delivery, especially with high-priority needs, across all departments.

"The transformation of state operations and programs is essential to bringing government closer to the people and building user-friendly service delivery models," the section concludes. "This state investment focuses on modernizing service delivery at all levels where Californians engage with government programs." 

Newsom was sworn in Monday and, one day later, he issued an executive order stretching the role of the state Department of General Services (DGS) and CDT to "develop a new iterative procurement approach called an Innovation Procurement Sprint." His four-page order promotes a new tool — RFI2, for "Request for Innovative Ideas" — that allows for solution development and collaboration on the front end of the process, instead of requiring payment before service delivery. 

And on Wednesday, Newsom again addressed one of California's tech-related problems — management of the Department of Motor Vehicles — by naming GovOps Secretary Marybel Batjer to head a strike force that will spend the next six months addressing challenges within the beleaguered agency.  

The next step for Newsom's budget is the May revision, released by the Department of Finance on May 14, and then final approval by June 15 by the Legislature.

This article originally ran on Techwire.net, a sister publication of Government Technology.

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