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GovOps Secretary Highlights Need for ‘Sustainable Transformation’

Amy Tong, secretary of the California Government Operations Agency, discussed the need for her agency to keep transformation moving forward and to cultivate an innovative culture, in remarks that opened day two of the California Public Sector CIO Academy.

Amy Tong, secretary of the California Government Operations Agency, discusses the need for her agency to preserve transformation and innovative culture, in opening remarks for day two of the California Public Sector CIO Academy, June 1 in Sacramento.
Theo Douglas/Industry Insider – California
Amy Tong, the new secretary of the California Government Operations Agency, discussed its mission and praised those who aided state government IT’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, during day two of the California Public Sector CIO Academy.*

Tong, who had been the state’s chief information officer and director of the California Department of Technology (CDT) for more than five years, served as director of the Office of Digital Innovation from Jan. 1 to March 1, when she was sworn in as GovOps secretary. She began her opening remarks Wednesday with fervent thanks to her colleagues at CDT, a department under the GovOps umbrella; to those working in security for making remote work safe; to IT vendors for taking late-night calls and putting California first; and to those who volunteered their services during the past two years.

‘This is the ecosystem, this is the support system, this is the collaboration that I’m going to bring to the GovOps agency as we transition into this post-pandemic – post-pandemic, I want to emphasize that word – as we are moving forward,” Tong said. “For our vendor community, our vendor partners who are helping the department to deliver, this is the mission, this is the culture, this is the support of culture that we continue to amplify.” She detailed three GovOps mission areas:

  • People: The secretary acknowledged the significance of a “well-supported team” – including staff who may be still determining how to best work remote, and what telework and hybrid should really look like. She highlighted the vacancies left by many retirements – and competition for skilled candidates from the private sector – and questioned how the state should best attract new talent and prep it to be successful. Officials, Tong said, are emphasizing outreach, recruitment and hiring – and reaching out to areas of potential candidates that may not have considered the state prior to the rise of remote work.
  • Cultivating an innovative culture: Tong said this means, in part, fostering a less “risk-averse culture.” She noted her own record is not perfect but added: “As long as we learn from our mistakes, go forward with it and have the ability to make those decisions, which we all have demonstrated in the COVID response, we can move this state further on its transformation.” During the pandemic’s first two years, the secretary said nearly 75 competitive procurements were each completed in seven to 14 days – an exceedingly heavy workload but one that got projects done.
    “We were able to bring seven statewide systems (up) in a matter of months,” Tong said. “Are those perfect? No. Do they need to be worked on? Absolutely. But that’s the type of pace I intend to keep in a probably more reasonable manner, not weeks. Probably, months. So that we can keep this type of momentum going and push for this type of energy and the level of transformation that the state deserves.
  • A sustainable transformation effort: Tong spoke of GovOps’ inaugural secretary Marybel Batjer and her immediate predecessor Yolanda Richardson as champions of innovation, saying: “I do not want the culture of innovation to stop simply because there’s a change at the helm.” Thus, officials plan to develop a “sustainable transformation effort,” one potentially involving other state agencies and departments and vendors, to create a “center of excellence” -- a cohort or team informed with roadmaps and sustainability plans to ensure ongoing work can continue despite any leadership change. Transformation is, Tong said, “too important” to be stopped, and she challenged audience members to ask what they can do “to carry this type of energy, to carry this type of culture of innovation, to carry forward and champion the fact that we the state have demonstrated our ability to deliver and we the state can continue to excel ... .”

    *The California Public Sector CIO Academy is produced by e.Republic, parent company of Industry Insider – California.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.