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Industry Insider One-on-One: State Finance Tech Leader on Cloud, Cybersecurity

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.

Wesley Major is chief information officer for the California Department of Finance (DOF), a role he has held since 2008. Major is a veteran state employee of 33 years, having come onboard in 1989 as a correctional educator at Mule Creek State Prison, for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He joined DOF in 1994 as an associate information systems analyst – a department Microsoft desktop instructor – then went on to become DOF’s first webmaster as a staff information systems analyst in 1995. He was promoted to data processing manager, DPM II, and then to DPM III in 2000 prior to becoming CIO.

Major holds an associate degree in sociology from Los Rios Community College and a bachelor’s degree from the College of Education at California State University, Sacramento, where he graduated magna cum laude.

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?

Major: As the chief information officer (CIO) for the Department of Finance, I am responsible for providing leadership and policy direction for the department’s internal computing infrastructure, application portfolio, security, disaster recovery, network infrastructure, application development and client support. I manage all phases of the eBudget system development and deployment, which is a web-based presentation of the Governor’s Budget and Budget Summary. I represent the department during statewide meetings (biannual state CIO meetings) pertaining to the evolution of IT within state government. Additional responsibilities include managing IT enterprise architecture infrastructure and applications that are critical to meeting the department’s mission. Supplementary roles include managing and working with the department’s information security officer (ISO), serving as the department’s technology recovery coordinator, managing the Technology Recovery Plan, and submitting annual IT reports to the state ISO and California Department of Technology on behalf of the department. The role and responsibility of the CIO has changed in that there is an increased demand to keep up and stay abreast of technology (which continues to change at an exponential rate), delivery of cloud-based services, increased focus on security, and data loss prevention. Such changes can present challenges as it pertains to managing existing resources, meeting more stringent deadlines, streamlining the delivery of systems/applications on time to meet business needs, and protecting and securing the enterprise architecture from cybersecurity attacks. Given that, the good news is these changes are manageable as long as the CIO maintains a dynamic, not static plan to manage and embrace change.

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?

Major: The Department of Finance has a strategic plan and it’s located on Finance’s public website. The strategic plan is currently in the process of being updated; however, you can link to our existing plan which can be found at the bottom of the “Quick Links” landing page. The development of the strategic plan consisted of a team of managers representing a cross section of Finance’s business areas. I played an integral, active and equal role in providing technology-related feedback, ideas and editing, as it pertained to developing the various sections.

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

Major: Although I/we do not have an official enterprise catalog, our data is managed and documented, all source locations are known, business owners and the roles they play is documented; resource allocations are updated on an as-needed basis, and data is shared across multiple systems. As with most things, there’s always room for implementing tools that will enhance business processes.

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?

Major: My primary focus at this time is increasing our cloud-based services footprint to host applications in the cloud that we develop in-house along with continually increasing our cybersecurity posture. This is my focus for the foreseeable future.

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?

Major: Digital transformation is the ability to modify existing and/or legacy business processes that are outdated by revamping, mapping and changing the way data is stored and accessed; and transform said processes to be more efficient where content is managed more effectively, end users are more productive and processes are no longer cumbersome. Approximately 85 percent of legacy business processes have been digitally transformed.

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

Major: Total IT employees – 45. Overall department budget – $92,422,000. Current year estimated cost of 45 IT staff – $8,224,000. Current year estimated IT costs, excluding staff costs – $2,504,000.

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?

Major: The best way to contact me is via email. I recommend vendors educate themselves by perusing our public website as there is a plethora of information about what we do.

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

Major: There are couple of many that I’m proud of. The California Budget (eBudget) system which hosts the Governor’s Proposed Budget, May Revision and Enacted Budget. This system was developed under pressure when implemented in 2008 and in a short period of time. It has gone through several iterations and enhancements with the latest being moved into the Azure cloud. The latest achievement is related to the COVID-19 pandemic information hosted on our public website. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government passed legislation providing funding to states to aid their response and recovery from this unprecedented public health emergency. The Department of Finance was tasked with tracking federal funding by program and fund. These projects were highly important with tight deadlines, uncertain and often changing requirements, and included coordination amongst multiple teams and departments. We developed the Federal Coronavirus Funding Tracking (FCFT), Coronavirus Relief Funding (CRF), and State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SFRF) systems in partnership with the business side of the house subject matter experts and the enterprise and special development IT teams in support of tracking federal funding by program and fund.

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

Major: CalNet contracts and the negotiated services offerings. The contracts can be confusing, and some have limited procurement services and product offering options. Additionally, some contract negotiations appear to fall short or don’t go far enough in providing enough options when procuring services and products. A comprehensive review and analysis of existing CalNet contracts to determine where they fall short and lessons learned can/should be the driving force when renewing existing and pursuing new contracts.

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

Major: IT-related legislative bills, GovTech* Today articles, Microsoft articles, Flipboard Information Technology news, new product announcements from IT vendors, and a host of IT articles received via email and IT forums.

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

Major: Riding my Harley-Davidson touring motorcycle, which I’ve ridden to the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, the heartland that consisted of states such as Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Washington, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, the Smoky Mountains Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap (popular destination for riders) to name a few, and a host of other states. I enjoy fishing, trying to play golf (the jury is still out on that), doing home improvement projects, working on my vehicles, reading and studying the Bible, reading about historical events and current events, and perusing through the books in my home library.

*Government Technology magazine is a publication of e.Republic, which also produces Industry Insider — California.

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