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Industry Insider One-on-One: Systems Analyst on Collaboration, Modernization

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.

Nancy Smith is a veteran state staffer and is currently systems analyst manager at the California Department of General Services (DGS). She has been at DGS since August 2016 and was previously a senior information systems analyst at the California Department of Technology for nearly 15 years. There, among her areas of focus, she assisted CDT customers with services and helped them work through incidents.

Her skills, according to her LinkedIn profile, include software development life cycle (SDLC), project management and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

Industry Insider — California: It’s my understanding that you have two roles at DGS: Enterprise Services Sections, systems analyst manager; and ServiceNow team supervisor. Please tell me a bit about each of these roles and how they may have changed in recent years?

Smith: Until October 2021, I actually managed the systems analysts and the developers for ServiceNow. We brought on another supervisor, so there’s another supervisor over the developers. We’ve now morphed all of the systems analysts into being enterprise. So they actually work on ... GIS, Microsoft, on ServiceNow. They do a variety of things. I manage them along with managing the platform. I don’t manage the developers, but the platform is something that I still work with; and I was a platform manager, so I have the ongoing meetings. But also for ... the ServiceNow team part, we’re responsible for monitoring incidents and requested items that come in. It’s a very fun, rewarding job.

Industry Insider — California: What big IT initiatives or projects do you currently have in the works?

Smith: The big IT initiative we’re working on right now is telework. We’ve been doing a lot of stuff for the statewide telework, to gather the data from the other state departments. We’re working really heavy on that. We’ve actually used an external ServiceNow platform to allow them to submit the data to us. It comes in as an Excel spreadsheet and we ingest it, and it gets put with the rest of the data from the other departments. We’re working on that. We’re working on – a couple more things are an external portal to assist our Office of Legal Services and the Procurement Division. They’ve got a process, everyone’s very familiar with (California Multiple Award Schedules) CMAS. The CMAS is actually online, the application, paying your quarterly reports – it’s all online now. It’s huge; it’s made a great difference. No more paper. That went online about 16 months ago. And the fourth item is the NCB portal for non-competitive bids. The CMAS, because it was so paperbound, they had no concept of all the processes they would need, so it’s been evolving over the last 16 months; we’re continuing to make enhancements to have the system be the best it can for the CMAS customers and our Procurement Division. We build for our customers but we never walk away.

Industry Insider — California: What big IT 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?

Smith: We will be going out to bid for our ServiceNow licensing at the beginning of next year because it’s expiring, and so that will be a big contract. We are also going to implement the ServiceNow HR service delivery module, a project which is overarching. It’s an HR legacy application replacement, so we’re slowly going to replace the legacy application that is expensive for us to maintain. That’s a good one; that’s going to be about an 18- to 24-month project. In six months, we hope to have it implemented for our ... HR staff who want to be able to have their clients use this module first. That is our six-month goal, is having them in the system.

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?

Smith: It will not be finished in my lifetime. Really to me, digital transformation is taking processes and automating them, making the transparency. There’s too many things that are behind closed doors. We make sure that everyone knows that when we’re creating these new processes, that we’re giving them the visibility, whether it’s creating a dashboard, a Power BI report, so they can see their information. CMAS has a great Power BI report out there and it’s available to anybody. It showcases what we can do with our data, so we want to take everything we’re doing and give it a container to say, ‘Hey, it’s taken this long, it’s in this stage,’ to streamline. We can find the deficiencies in the process and change it quickly.

Industry Insider — California: How might vendors best educate themselves before working with either Enterprise Services or the ServiceNow Team?

Smith: Vendors definitely need to know the platform. We do have service contracts right now because we don’t have the staff level ... because ServiceNow has become such a huge thing, we keep outgrowing ourselves really quick. We do that and I just suggest you understand what DGS is. A lot of people don’t take the time to learn what DGS does. DGS – we’re the administrative branch, we do all the administration. We do the procurement, we do the state cars, we do the state parking lots, the real estate, so all the buildings. We have a lot underneath us. And so that’s something that I expect them to know and to understand.

Industry Insider — California: You were recently recognized at the California Public Sector CIO Academy with an award, in large part for your work with the ServiceNow Team. What can you tell me about that work and what takeaways would you offer from the challenge of managing service for more than 24,000 customers, across millions of transactions?

Smith: First, I have to thank my manager, Bob Summers. He’s been a phenomenal coach to me and a mentor, to teach me how to manage this. It’s all about taking the right balance, delegating down, trust in your staff. That’s one of the biggest things is, we have to trust our staff. We just had an all-staff meeting yesterday – in person – and we gave out awards and it’s ‘because each one of you are great in what you do,’ and we have a high-performing team. It’s Bob’s entire section. So, it’s not just me, it’s the teams near me. How I manage that is one day at a time. I use the tools that are before me. ServiceNow has what are called ‘Visual Task Boards’; it’s an online planner so you can have what you’re doing, what you need to do, what you’ve finished. We use those a lot. And I also have my own internal dashboards so I can see at any given time what my staff are working on and what’s coming up in our next release, is it all ready?

Industry Insider — California: In your tenure at DGS, which project or achievement are you most proud of?

Smith: I love my tenure at DGS and I’ve been here six years. Prior to that, I was at the California Department of Technology for 15 (years). But the thing I am most proud of is the collaboration that we do with other state departments. We have probably around a biannual meeting called the ServiceNow users group, it’s for state of California, local, whatever government wants to come – and the vendors come as well so they can hear. We talk about what problems we’re having; we have speakers and then we do breakout rooms. And those groups get into smaller groups, and we talk about things, so we can share ideas back and forth between different departments. I think there’s 40 departments that have it. That’s been great and it’s also led to us sharing stuff with other departments, sharing code, being creative ... . We have over 450 people in the ServiceNow user group.

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

Smith: It needs to be a shorter process. There’s a lot of words that go into these standard contracts – your statements of work, and you have to be so exact. I wish it was like boilerplate for that stuff but it’s not, because each one is different and so each one has to be tweaked each time. So that takes a little while.

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

Smith: I do read GovTech*; it’s in the inbox. And I read Gartner, and the ServiceNow Community page has a lot of great information along with their documentation. We get stuff from vendors all the time ... and so we actually do a lot of two-hour webinars. Those are really great.

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

Smith: I really enjoy running; I have a 15-month-old grandson and he lives locally, so it’s very nice to hang out with him. As far as reading, self-help books is really what I’ve been into lately. Just more about growing as a person. Right now, I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies. I recently finished Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People. That’s a classic that can be reread and reread. It wasn’t my first time reading it, but you always get something from it; you always need to remind yourself. It’s a big benefit, especially when you have teams.

*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.