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Here’s How State May Create New Data, Innovation Office

In a new budget change proposal, the Government Operations Agency reveals its plan to merge the Office of Digital Innovation, the Government Excellence and Transformation Center, and the CalData Program into one entity, the Office of Data and Innovation – and how each would function and be staffed.

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The state agency charged with improving the management and accountability of government programs is looking to merge three state entities centered on technology, data and innovation and seeking the funding to do so.

In a recent budget change proposal (BCP), the Government Operations Agency (GovOps) asks to merge the state Office of Digital Innovation, the Government Excellence and Transformation Center (GET Center) and the CalData Program (CalData) into one entity, the Office of Data and Innovation (ODI). If approved by lawmakers, the BCP would use trailer bill language to establish ODI as a “standalone entity reporting to GovOps beginning in (Fiscal Year) 2023-24.” In the BCP, GovOps also asks for six new positions, and to “realign ODI’s funding model.” Here, the agency asks for a decrease of a little more than $4.8 million in reimbursement authority and an increase of the same amount in General Fund monies for the 2022-2023 Fiscal Year and ongoing to adjust that funding model “to a more sustainable and equitable structure that will allow ODI to increase engagements with departments and fulfill its mission.” Lastly, the agency seeks $20 million in one-time General Fund monies “to replenish the Data and Innovation Services Revolving Fund” (DISRF). Among the takeaways:

  • The reorganized, 65-person ODI would include four executive roles: director; chief deputy director in charge of operations, legislative and external affairs, strategy, partnerships and training, and CalInnovate; the chief data officer, over CalData; and the attorney, who reports to the director. The operations division would include 15 people and oversee the areas of talent, IT, administration, and administrative support. The deputy director of operations would be on the exec team and would report to the chief deputy director. Legislative and external affairs would have one position, also an exec team member. Strategy, partnerships and training would comprise seven positions – two of them new: a CalAcademy training program manager (Career Executive Assignment B), and a CalAcademy lead (Staff Services Manager I), specialist. CalInnovate would have 23 positions; the division provides “user research and innovation services that are cross-cutting in nature and provide departments with innovative approaches and solutions.” CalData would have 15 positions and its structure would mirror the state data strategy – “structured around the analogy that in order to successfully navigate the ‘data landscape,’” the state will need to “intentionally build the data roads, craft the rules of the road and boost the drivers.” Three of those 15 positions have been shifted and reclassified from vacant jobs; four are new.
  • GovOps requests four positions and $665,000 in General Fund monies in the 2022-2023 FY and ongoing to staff the GET Center and “accelerate the modernization of state operations.” The center itself comes out of a mandate in the 2021-2022 FY budget outlining GovOps deliverables including developing a “multi-year strategic plan to transform state government” with the GET Center to assist. The center was designed to “catalyze the transformation process” and its goal is developing pilot projects in state departments with “innovative practices” that boost performance and equity – and are scalable. The center will, according to the BCP, set up a “repository of best practices and case studies of successful operational innovations that measurably improve the state’s operational effectiveness.”
    “Failing to adopt modern operational techniques, after having been appropriately piloted and tested, would put California further behind other states and ultimately increase costs, as the state will have to continue to rely on an outdated and costly operational structure that will take up large shares of department budgets,” according to the BCP.
  • The BCP would also rename the Digital Innovation Services Revolving Fund to the DISRF and make technical changes that “reflect the merger of the three programs into one organization.” The fund, which would be available to all state entities not just systems, would focus on business problems or issues that “may or may not involve or lead to an IT project” – ensuring those problems or issues are founded in user research and needs, data and evidence on “what works,” and ongoing improvement. It would identify projects in need of “business process changes, service innovation, rapid prototypes and testing to learn, advanced analytics and data science,” or those that need a recommendation and referral to the Technology Modernization Fund or a budget change proposal of their own.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic, according to the BCP, helped officials isolate the need for a “broader framework for government innovation that focuses on user research, service innovation and data,” while projects that the Office of Digital Innovation and CalData accomplished in response to the pandemic showed a need for a “holistic approach to innovation that starts with a clear understanding of the problem at hand.” Additionally, while the Office of Digital Innovation was focused on digital innovation, its leaders found that they could speed up innovation via “improved user research, service design and data analytics accompanied by tailored guidebooks and training, business process changes, policy or requirement changes or in some cases, a digital solution.” The organizational shift proposed would “de-emphasize digital and expand current innovation efforts to also include CalData and the GET Center programs.”
    “Combining these three programs into the newly named Office of Data and Innovation (ODI), which better describes the services currently being provided, is the next logical step to move innovation and data services within the state forward in a productive and accelerated manner,” according to the BCP, which notes that standing up “centers of excellence in user research, service innovation, and data and analytics” in one state entity can help modernize such practices across the enterprise.
  • Approving the BCP as requested would modernize how customers experience government services – and government’s internal management and operations – while requiring additional one-time and ongoing General Fund monies. Continuing as things are would require GovOps to run each program individually – including the GET Center and CalData from the Office of the Secretary, which isn’t designed to run them. This would also slow the growth of innovation and data services, though it would reduce the use of General Fund monies. A second alternative – approving the proposal but not replenishing the DISRF – would mean reducing pilots and services ODI can offer state entities, although it would make available $20 million in one-time General Fund monies for other priorities.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.