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Industry Insider One-on-One: Corrections CIO on Initiatives, Transformation Plan

Image of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation CIO Kristin Montgomery next to a quote that reads: "Using technology to re-imagine business processes through the use of digital tools not only creates efficiencies but changes the culture of an organization."
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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.

Kristin Montgomery is chief information officer and director of the Division of Enterprise Information Services at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, a role she has had since June 2021. The department’s first female CIO, Montgomery was previously a deputy director at CDCR from March 2018-June 2021. Her state career dates to October 2013 when she joined the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) as a controller, serving in that capacity for more than four years before joining CDCR. Before coming to CalPERS, Montgomery owned Dolamont Consulting from 2006 to 2013.

Montgomery has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Wartburg College and a master’s in business administration/finance from California State University, East Bay.

Industry Insider — California: As CIO of your organization, how do you describe your role? How have the role and responsibilities of the CIO changed in recent years?

Montgomery: As CIO at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, my role is to ensure the technology for staff and the incarcerated population meet their program needs, identify new technology and opportunities to improve CDCR processes, and ensure the technology currently provided is dependable. My role and responsibilities have evolved over the last two years and my team is heavily engaged with our programs to identify opportunities to digitally transform CDCR.

Industry Insider — California: Does your organization have a strategic plan, and may we hyperlink to it? How big a role do you personally play in writing that strategic plan?

Montgomery: CDCR last updated its strategic plan in 2016 and I am deeply involved with the effort to update it. We are currently planning another update to the strategic plan, with technology being a centerpiece in our path forward. I have been leading an effort to draft a digital transformation plan for CDCR to modernize institution operations and better support rehabilitative programs for the incarcerated population. Digital transformation will support the future strategies of CDCR and provide a technical foundation to modernize its institution and parole operations, as well as provide improved rehabilitative programming to the incarcerated and parole populations.

Industry Insider — California: How often do you update your organization’s enterprise catalog?

Montgomery: We update our enterprise catalog continuously to reflect the services we provide. In the past we relied on annual updates, but learned waiting 12 months to reflect new services and to remove services no longer provided was not providing a benefit to CDCR staff.

Industry Insider — California: What big initiatives or projects are coming up? What sorts of developing opportunities and RFPs should we be watching for in the next six to 12 months?

Montgomery: CDCR has several major initiatives and future projects we are working on. We are implementing a large technology rollout by providing incarcerated students laptops and using technology to make academic and career technical education more available in a correctional environment. This project requires a complete redesign of the network incarcerated students use to improve the technology performance and expand the capacity of these programs. Providing technology to incarcerated people will provide them valuable experience and have far-reaching benefits when they are released into our communities, pursue their education and enter the workforce. Another project with big benefits to incarcerated people as well as their friends and families is the implementation of communication technology. This will provide every incarcerated person with a tablet to use for phone calls and electronic messaging with their friends and families, along with access to games, music and CDCR information. The technology also provides video calling when the tablet is docked in designated areas. This communication is an integral part of ensuring family relationships are maintained and improves the chances for success upon release. One other critical project we continue to implement is the Audio-Video Surveillance Systems (AVSSs) in CDCR institutions. AVSSs have been installed in eight institutions. The system enhances public safety and facility security by providing real-time audio and video monitoring and recording in order to conduct investigations and after-the-fact reviews. We are planning the implementation of this technology at 10 additional institutions in fiscal year 2022-2023. Use of camera technology is to promote safety, enhance security, assist staff in conducting use-of-force reviews, enhance the detection of criminal activity and reduce incidents and allegations of excessive or unnecessary force. A future project I am leading is the digital transformation for institution operations that will modernize CDCR institutions. This is a large-scale effort to expand network access for staff to use devices to perform their daily work and support the incarcerated population. It has the added benefit of providing incarcerated people with more reliable processes to show them the status of their requests, which we believe will improve relationships they have with staff.

Industry Insider — California: How do you define “digital transformation?” How far along is your organization in that process, and how will you know when it’s finished?

Montgomery: My definition of digital transformation is not much different than the widely accepted definition. Using technology to re-imagine business processes through the use of digital tools not only creates efficiencies but changes the culture of an organization. The cultural change to embrace technology to complete work at CDCR has been an ongoing process, but our staff have made the switch to embrace technology not only for their use, but for use by incarcerated people. We are in the midst of an exciting time in CDCR history and have many opportunities to apply technology to improve our organization.

Industry Insider — California: What is your estimated IT budget and how many employees do you have? What is the overall budget?

Montgomery: The IT budget is approximately $224 million for FY 2022-2023 including funding for new projects. The IT Division consists of 705 employees statewide. The CDCR budget is $14 billion for FY 2022-2023.

Industry Insider — California: How do you prefer to be contacted by vendors, including via social media such as LinkedIn? How might vendors best educate themselves before meeting with you?

Montgomery: We have established a monthly meeting for vendors to present to my executive team. This process has served us well and provides vendors the opportunity to do one presentation for the entire CDCR technology executive team. The team supporting our vendor days can be reached at VendorComms@cdcr.ca.gov to reserve a date and time at one of our monthly meetings. Vendors can best educate themselves through reviewing our public website to get a sense of the size of CDCR, understand we support a correctional environment that includes incarcerated people and employees, and know how their product would benefit CDCR through providing a new service or improving on an existing service.

Industry Insider — California: In your tenure in this position, which project or achievement are you most proud of?

Montgomery: The achievement I am most proud of is the connection between the technology and program organizations within CDCR. We have worked tirelessly over the past two years to establish solid relationships with our business partners built on credibility and trust. My technical teams have implemented projects and delivered services that have changed how technology is viewed within CDCR. This was critical in earning the trust of our programs and allows for future projects on digital transformation. We are able to build on and continue to foster the trust and respect between the technology and program divisions within CDCR. If I was not able to establish the Industry Insider “One-on-One” interview trust and credibility of my business partners, future projects and major undertakings such as digital transformation would not be possible.

Industry Insider — California: If you could change one thing about IT procurement, what would it be?

Montgomery: Procurement needs to be more flexible while maintaining the necessary safeguards to protect public funds. Government procurement processes need to be updated to reflect new technology services, especially in the area of subscription-based procurements. We use the same procurement process and terms and conditions for both IT procurements of software and hardware as we do subscriptions for technology services. Oftentimes, business programs discover a tool that is available through a low-risk subscription that is subject to the same procurement process and includes the same terms and conditions as an application, software product, or hardware. It makes it difficult for government information technology organizations to respond in a timely manner to the needs of their programs and is frustrating to our program partners because they are trying to get services to perform the functions of their business or operations.

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

Montgomery: I rely heavily on information technology research organizations, as well as several other technology organizations who cover both general information technology and government-specific information technology.

Industry Insider — California: What are your hobbies and what do you enjoy reading?

Montgomery: My favorite things to do are visiting my grandchildren and playing golf. I am an avid Chicago Cubs fan and a huge fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes. My favorite things to read are the stories I read to my grandchildren.

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