California's Public Utility Commission CIO discusses staying current in a changing and increasingly challenging environment.
The California Public Utility Commission is looking to technology to shore up efficiency and drive the business processes of the regulatory agency forward. From modernizing its overall technology footprint and licensing process to the way the agency thinks about cybersecurity, CIO Reza Yazdi explained the approach his team is taking.
Government Technology caught up with the CIO following an industry briefing, hosted by eRepublic’s Techwire*, to discuss the moves being made by the agency in these critical areas.
Since taking the agency’s lead IT role in 2015, Yazdi said the CPUC has pushed ahead in modernizing technology and where it intersects with the business processes, customers and the public. One such undertaking are efforts to take the agency’s utility application, licensing and reporting systems from an analog process to a digital one.
“eFAST is our ... e-filing system, CPUC does a lot of filing, which is manual filing. All of the utility companies, anybody who wants to start a business in the utility areas, they have to file, they have to get a license, they have to renew their licenses and any reporting comes basically as … paper-based reporting,” Yazdi explained. “We are modernizing our system to be able to get all of those reports, all of those [inaudible] applications, licenses to our electronic systems [so] everything will be electronically delivered. We will receive the application, process them, and deliver them to our customers electronically.”
The growing connectedness of utility networks has opened the door to the risk of cyberintrusion and very real threats to public safety. Because of these ever-present risks, CPUC has been charged with launching a task force meant to bolster preparedness and enforce statewide policy.
With the support of the governor’s office, Yazdi explained the overall strategy to securing the utility networks throughout the state.
“Cybersecurity is one of the major areas of concern for the governor and the governor’s office, and utility companies have a big network, which if it were hacked can cause a disaster,” he said. “One of our responsibilities, which has been signed from the governor’s office, is having a task force into cybersecurity to make sure the utility companies have the good cybersecurity posture in place to make sure those systems are safe for utility companies and the services they are offering to the public. And that is going to be the major responsibility for CPUC, to set up this task force and implement the security policies and enforce those policies and receive all the reports from the utility companies.”
In speaking to the vendors who attended the Techwire briefing, Yazdi made it clear that he isn’t bound by the status quo, or married to a single technological solution. When asked about his approach to working with the vendor community and new potential solutions, the CIO said his tactic is finding a solution that does the job at a reasonable price.
Rather than forcing industry to comply with an outdated system or idea, he said he embraces the ideas that come out of conversation with the vendor community.
“To me, technology is not religious, as I said. We are open to any technology. We know there are a lot of good options on the table, there are a lot of good vendors, and the vendors basically come and go,” Yazdi said. “We would like to have the best of the technology to provide the service to us, provide the service to customers, to Californians, and at a reasonable rate. Our top priority is to pick the technology that works for us and allows us to offer those services to the public.”
*Techwire is a publication of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.