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Apps, Data Services Leader on Enterprise Intranet, Migration Work

As part of Industry Insider — California’s ongoing efforts to educate readers on state agencies, their IT plans and initiatives, here’s the latest in our periodic series of interviews with departmental IT leaders.

Career executive Chuck Harris is the chief of the Application and Data Services Branch at the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). He leads Application Development, one of the five teams — Cross Project, Enterprise Systems and Infrastructure, Technical Management, Application Development and Information Security — that are part of CDTFA’s Technology Services Division. That division is headed by CDTFA’s Chief Information Officer Scott Capulong. Harris has been at CDTFA, and before that at the California State Board of Equalization (BOE), for more than 30 years total, and in his spare time is an avid hiker and fisherman.

Industry Insider — California: How long have you been at CDTFA and how would you describe your current role in terms of responsibilities and duties? How large is your current team?

Harris: I have been with CDTFA and BOE for more than 30 years. Currently, I am the chief of the Application and Data Services Branch. My CDTFA team is roughly 50 strong, and we handle application development and database administration.

Industry Insider — California: If you are on LinkedIn, would you please consider providing a hyperlink to your profile?

Harris: I am not on LinkedIn.

Industry Insider — California: What big IT initiatives or projects are you working on? What sorts of projects might be coming your way in 2023?

Harris: My largest upcoming project is a migration to new enterprise content management platforms. That will keep us busy at least through the end of 2023. We also have several smaller projects that leverage the Microsoft Power Platform that will streamline and improve our internal processes.

Industry Insider — California: You accepted a “Best of California” award for Best Workforce/Workplace Initiative at the California Digital Government Summit in September for the enhancement of the enterprise intranet site with a team member dashboard. Can you explain a bit about that project, its goals and your role in it?

Harris: The enhancement of the enterprise intranet site with a team member dashboard was initiated to streamline and simplify CDTFA enterprise tasks and help team members complete required forms and mandatory training. Additionally, we simplified task completion tracking and made it less time-consuming. My team built the application with input and assistance from our partners at Microsoft. As the technical project manager, I provided design and process input, as well as support, to make sure any roadblocks were short-lived. This system worked so well we are meeting with other departments that are interested in the system.

Industry Insider — California: What needs was the dashboard created to resolve?

Harris: This dashboard provides greater visibility for CDTFA team members to tasks that need to be completed. It has information located in one central area and is shown right on the intranet home page. As team members complete tasks, they can check them off.

Industry Insider — California: What were the biggest challenges to the project and how were those resolved? When did it go live?

Harris: The biggest challenge was leveraging tools we didn’t have much experience with using. That’s where our partnership with Microsoft was critical. Working with our Microsoft team, we were able to leverage the tools that we had available. It went live on March 1.

Industry Insider — California: What best practices might you offer as a result of having worked on this project?

Harris: The best practice I’d offer is to invest in understanding the tools you already have available in your IT toolbox. You don’t necessarily need to know how to use everything but know that it’s there and learn what you can do with it.

Industry Insider — California: In your time at CDTFA — or at another state entity — what IT project or achievement are you most proud of?

Harris: Through my leadership, we developed the first online sales tax e-filing application. I worked long hours with many talented developers, analysts and subject matter experts to establish a system that allows businesses to file returns electronically. It was a complex system that interfaced with a mainframe back end and an external payment processor.

Industry Insider — California: What has surprised you most this year in government technology?

Harris: The thing that has surprised me the most is the use of blockchain technology in use cases that are not related to cryptocurrency. We have been discussing with other departments to determine how blockchain can be leveraged to make government more efficient.

Industry Insider — California: What do you read to stay abreast of developments in the govtech/SLED sector?

Harris: To stay up to date with the latest developments, I read Industry Insider, of course!

Industry Insider — California: What are your favorite hobbies?

Harris: I love the outdoors. I like day hikes and fly fishing when I can find the time.

Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for style and brevity.