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Goal 3: Make common technology easy to access, use, share and reuse across government

“Our scale is so big. We have over 60,000 employees. Per user, year over year, that all adds up.” - User research interview with Russ Nichols, Agency Information Officer, CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Many of the jobs to be done across government involve common needs and tasks.

There are common needs to deliver services to the public. When we examined large technology projects in planning across the state we found 79 case management systems across 22 departments; 45 reporting systems across 15 departments; 27 licensing systems across 23 departments; 23 claims management systems across 7 departments and 20 content management systems across 10 departments.

There are also common infrastructure needs, ranging from document management and electronic signatures to identity authentication, verification and validation.

Instead of tackling these problems with a collective approach, the state environment makes it easier for departments and programs to pursue individual projects. In some cases, it is difficult for programs to simply and easily reuse what has been successful elsewhere.

To deliver value to users more quickly, we must pool our investments and efforts into a shared digital infrastructure. We can do this by using common technology that can be adapted, shared and reused across the state. For most common problems, this will mean developing a suite of demonstrated approaches to be used by default, unless exceptions are met.

To build this shared infrastructure, we will need to practice and develop expertise in working at scale. We will need to make it easier and faster for teams to apply shared experience and patterns to solve problems. And we will need to make it easier and faster for teams to acquire modern, common technology for common needs like document management, helpdesk and support services, and identity authentication and verification.

“How can we work together in one shared environment, as one organization?” User research interview with Krista Canellakis, Deputy Secretary for General Services, Government Operations Agency

Staff in different departments need to be able to find each other in seconds, collaborate on documents and data in real-time and chat on video, no matter where they are. They need consistent, easy access to the modern tools to do their jobs, from analyzing or sharing data to managing projects.

Centralizing and standardizing on common technology choices make it easier for us to take advantage of our scale as the world’s fifth-largest economy. We have a duty to use our size to deliver better services at a responsible cost, allowing us to use our public funds to better serve people. This does not mean locking the state into a single choice, or vendor or inflexible static standards. It means understanding user needs and providing managed choices and flexibility. Most importantly, achieving this goal will make it faster and easier for teams to solve actual Californians’ problems, such as receiving emergency grant funding, starting businesses or finding child care.

Challenges to focus our work ahead together

Challenge 3.1: How can we ensure that our staff have easy access to the tools they need to succeed?

Why this matters:

  • Employees are frustrated that they cannot:
    • Look up each other’s contact information or availability,
    • work on documents together in real-time with colleagues from other departments (as collaboration tools replicate departmental boundaries),
    • rely on a common baseline of modern tools or
    • be sure that the technology and tools available to them will meet their needs.
  • Inconsistent policies, implementation, and availability of software and IT infrastructure reduces productivity, reduces security, reinforces silos and inhibits collaboration and multi-disciplinary teams.
  • We learned about challenges with remote work in terms of home internet availability and access to devices capable of video meetings. Although these issues surfaced for the state because of the pandemic, they helped us see the broader implications for Californians that we need to address.

Challenge 3.2: How do we make it easier for departments to successfully use and reuse common technology?

Why this matters:

  • The way technology projects are started and overseen, including through the Project Approval Lifecycle (PAL) frequently leads to large technology projects and fully custom technology, or heavily customized commercial off-the-shelf technology. This approach in turn leads to projects taking too long to deliver value.
  • Reaching a goal of delivering value to users within six months of contract award means programs need ways to be able to quickly solve common problems with easily available, proven common infrastructure or services. But repeated implementation without assessing lessons learned means that technology projects are not benefiting from avoiding errors or not replicating poor processes.
  • Federated policies have resulted in unnecessary complexity. Departments expressed a need for clear, consistent and flexible statewide standards on subjects such as data ownership and use, cloud services and graded approaches to risk.
  • All state entities are under budget pressure to do more with less. Negotiating deals individually at the program or department level for common state requirements misses the state’s opportunity to use its purchasing power to get better value. But these larger deals, like CDT’s Vendor Hosted Subscription Services (VHSS) and DGS’ Software Licensing Program (SLP), don’t exist for a wide enough range of technology yet, or don’t yet provide better value for money.

Challenge 3.3: What do departments and staff need to easily access and use the data they need?

Why this matters:

  • Successfully and seamlessly coordinating evacuations during emergencies like fires and toxics spills require entities like CalOES, county sheriffs and emergency operations centers to share situational awareness to coordinate responses such as fast and safe evacuations. This isn’t supported by current data infrastructure.
  • Programs aren’t able to quickly and securely prototype and experiment with data without affecting operations.
  • Many data problems are solved on an ad-hoc basis instead of systemically, because of an inconsistent, crisis-driven approach. Meaningful change requires an environment that supports continuous institutional learning, and consistent processes and governance for the usage, access and control of data.

Challenge 3.4: How might we improve reliability, reduce the burden and decrease the costs of running departmental websites?

Why this matters:

  • Commodity web hosting and publishing infrastructure is duplicated across departments and a potential candidate for standardization and centralization.
  • Not all public websites are able to meet surges in demand.
  • Inconsistent web platforms, templates and design across the state lead to complex operations and inconsistent user experiences for Californians.

Challenge 3.5: How can we develop a more secure, reliable and consistent way for people seeking state services to prove who they are?

Why this matters:

  • Users have an expectation of speed of service. Where services rely on proving who you are, breakdowns at the intersection (“seams”) of policy, operations and technology have led to unacceptably slow service. This is sometimes due to inconsistent implementation of identity verification and authentication services.
  • Multiple unconnected systems for users to authenticate their identity mean that users must repeatedly prove their identity across programs. This doesn’t match users’ expectations who see government as a single entity. For example, similar but different requests for information result in repeated mistakes.
  • Programs and departments bear the burden of implementing, maintaining, supporting and securing multiple identity verification and authentication systems, when identity verification and authentication is a common need.
  • Delivering options for a common approach to identity verification and authentication is at early stages and requires significant work to understand the public’s needs and expectations for privacy and security, how and when government shares information, transparency about information and information sharing, and informed consent.
  • Similarly, significant work is required to understand program, departmental, agency and statewide needs.