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3 State IT Projects Gain National Recognition

The solutions created by more than a dozen collaborating departments addressed everything from emergency response to hiring to the advent of cannabis regulation.

Three state technology projects are among 30 finalists around the country selected by a national IT organization.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) announced Tuesday it has chosen projects spearheaded by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR); and the departments of Consumer Affairs (DCA), Food and Agriculture, Public Health; and Technology as part of its 2019 NASCIO State IT Recognition Awards. Finalist initiatives will be added to the association’s awards library next month for future peer consideration. One award recipient in each of 10 categories will be announced at an awards dinner in October at NASCIO’s annual conference in Nashville, Tenn. Among the takeaways:

• The California Department of Technology (CDT) played a “central convening” or “facilitator” role in working with the Department of Consumer Affairs; the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA); and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), state CIO Amy Tong told Techwire, describing the unique collaboration that occurred when the agencies partnered to stand up four distinct Web applications needed to implement the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Three of the solutions — due by Jan. 1, 2018, focused on licensing, while the fourth — a second solution at CDFA — focused on so-called “track and trace.” CDT worked with the three primary partners and as many as 10 secondary partners — including the Franchise Tax Board, the California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration to understand their needs “so these four central systems would have the ability to information share with them,” Tong said, describing each as a “transactional, cloud-based system.”

CDT created data architecture and interoperability plans — road maps for these systems, which were “commercial off-the-shelf products configured for California’s needs.” Vendors were Accela, which worked with DCA and CDFA; Pega, which worked with CDPH; and Metrc LLC, which worked with CDFA on its “track and trace” system. “This particular award, we’ve always said, is less about technology, but more about collaboration and business process automation through technology,” Tong said. The partners were finalists in the State CIO Office Special Recognition category.

• The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) was recognized in the Information Communications Technology Innovations category for its Emergency Management Innovation Project, built on the Esri platform. First deployed in prototype following the December 2017 Thomas fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, the solutions — geospatial dashboards, mobile field-ready applications and Web-based mapping tools that got the agency off paper spreadsheets and maps — greatly enhanced public and government communications and hastened recovery. They’ve since gone into active use, for both state and county agencies, although refinement continues. In work assessing burned properties following the Thomas fire, DTSC was able to clear nearly 1,100 parcels in about four and a half weeks. After last year’s deadly Camp fire, the agency assessed more than 13,000 properties in about nine weeks. DTSC has tracked an overall improvement in its response time of 25 percent. An agile approach to prototyping was particularly successful.

“Instead of spending months and months developing something and rolling it out to the field and not being effective with the program, IT worked really closely with [the] program to develop these prototypes to make sure that we were basically hitting the mark,” said Jennifer Benson, chief information officer overseeing DTSC’s Office of Environmental Information Management.

“It’s not just one thing, it’s a suite of tools that all kind of mirror together. It allows us to communicate out to the public, communicate with other state agencies, communicate at the local level and additionally, communicate out to the public to inform them regarding what’s happening regarding our aspect of the cleanup,” said Billy Ferguson, solutions manager in DTSC’s Office of Environmental Information Management.

• The California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) was recognized in the Enterprise IT Management Initiatives category for its Examination and Certification Online System (ECOS), which comprises the entire back end of its CalCareers job site — a major connection point between CalHR and state agency staffers; and residents applying for jobs at more than 160 agencies, departments, boards and commissions statewide. ECOS, which began to be implemented in 2011, made electronic the application, examination and hiring processes, linking all three — aggregating the work of seven legacy systems and eliminating traditional communication methods.

“There was a need to bring them under one system for a couple different reasons. One, that the technologies were hard to maintain and not defensible. Also, because due to the evolution of rules, regulations and so on that necessitate system changes, it was a lot easier to extend the functionality with the new technology that we replaced all of those legacy systems with,” said Hence Phillips, CalHR project manager, describing CalCareers’ evolution as taking place “over time.” Vendors were Kiefer Consulting, which spearheaded the redesign of CalCareers; and Visionary Integration Professionals, which worked on ECOS.

Key milestones include the ability to submit job applications electronically, which rolled out in January 2016; the ability for applicants to “save” a partially completed template during the application process and return to it at a later time; the migration to electronic correspondence with job candidates — a big time and material saver; and a “wizard” yet to be rolled out, once all job examinations are part of ECOS, which will connect the application and examination processes in the system.

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.