IE11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

State IT Veteran Hariharan Named CIO for Food and Ag Agency

Amar Hariharan has decades of experience in both the public and private sectors, a background that he believes will serve him well as he moves into his new role as chief information officer for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Amar Hariharan, an award-winning technologist with a deep background in the public and private sectors, has been named chief information officer for the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

Amar Hariharan.JPG
Amar Hariharan
Hariharan has about 20 years’ experience in the private sector, with affiliations including Accenture, Deloitte, TASQ Technologies, International Finance Corp., Infosys and Blue Shield of California. He entered state government in 2014 as a chief with the Department of Health Care Services, then moved to a section chief role with the California Department of Technology. After that, Hariharan was assistant director of the DXP Project for the Department of Motor Vehicles before being named CIO for CDFA.

“I’m really excited about this,” Hariharan told Industry Insider California in an interview Friday.

CDFA has more than a dozen programs and divisions, managing a wide swath of regulatory functions relating to agriculture, pest and disease prevention, nutrition, licensing and inspection services — all of which involve technology to one degree or another. Hariharan said the IT section has about 70 staffers, and the agency information officer is veteran state IT executive Rob Peterson.

The agency began recruitment for the CIO position last summer, and it was only when Hariharan appeared at last week’s California Public Sector CIO Academy, with his nametag bearing his new title, that many became aware that he had landed the job. He joked that he hadn’t yet updated his LinkedIn profile with his new role because he didn’t want to be bombarded with congratulatory emails just yet.

Hariharan said that with his background, he’s very comfortable with all aspects of his new role.

“I come from a very heavy project management background, within the state of California and also outside the state,” he said. “I have managed pretty large multimillion-dollar projects. Coming into this role, it’s kind of a hybrid between both my project management experience as well as maintenance and operations, so I have to wear both hats.”

One of his first priorities is to assess the many systems CDFA uses and to modernize, consolidate and simplify them for users.

“As with most state agencies, we are constrained by resources and technology,” Hariharan said. “So we have created a strategic plan, and my objective is to make sure that I lead CDFA to achieve those strategic initiatives: modernizing CDFA’s systems and processes so that it benefits the citizens’ interactions with CDFA … basically reducing the number of clicks, making it easier for them.”

Looking ahead, the CIO said, the public will see some “very significant changes” in how CDFA operates as modernization and consolidation initiatives evolve.

What should the industry expect under Hariharan’s administration? He said he has many enduring relationships with those in the private sector, and he’s continually impressed with how “they’ve bent over backward” to help state agencies. He anticipates no big changes in how CDFA handles procurement.

Hariharan’s motivation for working in state government is one that he says he shares with many others in the public sector: a desire to work for more than a paycheck or a shareholder return. This was a point he made in an interview with Industry Insider (then Techwire) in 2018.

Off the job, Hariharan serves on the board of directors for the Sacramento Countywide Oversight Board and volunteers with the Sacramento chapter of OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, an organization dedicated to advancing the social, political and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Islander Americans in the United States. He also serves as a professional mentor and coaches youth volleyball. He and his family live in the greater Sacramento area.

Hariharan earned his bachelor’s degree in commerce, finance and accounting from the University of Calcutta and his Master of Business Administration from Phoenix University. His professional credentials include Certified Scrum Master and Project Management Professional.
Dennis Noone is Executive Editor of Industry Insider. He is a career journalist, having worked at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies including USA Today in Washington, D.C.