California pursues flexibility in procurement as state modernizes IT

What is California doing to modernize its many legacy information technology systems? It’s starting by changing how agencies buy new technology.

“The first and foremost is that we have to be able to allow our customers to quickly acquire modernization type solutions,” says California chief technology officer Richard Rogers in a video interview.

“I’ve talked about how they’re able to do service request now to be able to get to the cloud providers. We’re looking to be able to do something similar for professional services.”

In his first full day as California’s governor in January, Gavin Newsom announced RFI-squared, a new type of solicitation process in which bidders are asked to create custom solutions that meet the specific needs of the agencies, rather than offering canned products that may or may not suit the state’s needs.

Last month the new procurement technique saw its first use as the state awarded two contracts for wildfire detection and response technologies: a modeling platform that predicts where active blazes will spread, and an ignition detection system that relies on aerial sensors.

“That’s all about speeding up the procurement, but not just speeding up where the vendor community gives you a bunch of documents and you evaluate it, but it allows you to be able to prototype and see prototypes and multiple solutions to see what’s the best fit for your organization,” Rogers says.

Rogers on his top priorities:

“When I first took this assignment two years ago the first thing I did was to look at the age of my workforce and I found out that 54 percent of them are going to be eligible to retire in five years. And that was two years ago.”

Rogers on cloud computing:

“Now we’re working on a cloud readiness playbook. … You have a certain set of go-to plays that you can go to based on the situation.”

Rogers on how he sees his role changing with emerging technology:

“I see my job actually changing to take advantage of the technology. … I see us being a little step higher than a broker — more of an enabler.”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ midyear conference in National Harbor, Maryland, in May 2019.