After 32 Years and One Last Procurement, CIO is Retiring on Top

The top IT executive for the State Bar of California is about to retire after a 32-year career in tech, and he says he's leaving with satisfaction — thanks in part to a very positive experience with certain vendors in his last big procurement.

It was circumstance — jury duty, to be precise — that led Resty Buenavidez into a career as an IT executive working in San Francisco for The State Bar of California.

Thirty-two years later, as Buenavidez contemplates retirement in a little over a month, he feels as if he’s closing out his run with a pivotal, very successful procurement for the organization.

The State Bar, which oversees association admissions, attorney registration and discipline and a host of other court-related matters, is in the midst of a major overhaul of its technology — a procurement that involves some familiar names: Tyler Technologies. Oracle. Slalom. VMWear.

And Salesforce.

“My view in San Francisco is of the Salesforce Tower,” Buenavidez told Techwire in a recent interview. “I really saw how they, too, transformed. So five or six years ago, I decided I needed to know what the heck is going on over there. They’re growing and growing. I met with a few of their executives, and basically I told them what I needed.

“We had used an (IBM) AS400 System application, and we were looking for something more modern to serve the needs of the State Bar and to meet the needs in the strategic plan,” Buenavidez continued. “So Salesforce created this very high-level mockup in a very short period of time, and it kind of showed me (their vision) of the admissions process, the attorney membership process, all the way to the disciplinary process.

“That was transformational,” Buenavidez said. “I said, ‘This is the future platform of The State Bar!’”

The State Bar -- a component of the Judicial Branch of the California Supreme Court — went with Salesforce, along with the aforementioned vendors, in a sweeping revamp that’s not done yet.

“Our case management system, we just deployed,” Buenavidez said. “We elected to choose and deploy the Tyler Odyssey system. It’s used in many courts. The old California case management system became defunct. Tyler and some others came in with case management systems. … Alameda used it, and we also deployed it.”

The Bar went with a Salesforce platform for, among other things, its admissions system. California’s State Bar is the largest in the country, with some 300,000 members, and Buenavidez knew he needed a robust system.

“For more than a decade, we’ve been aware that (the system) needs to migrate off the technology that we deployed in 1987 to 1991,” he said. “It was a huge transformation for The State Bar. We had a custom development at that time — there were not too many COTS (commercial off-the-shelf systems) back then. We used a custom language. It’s been a great system, a rock-solid platform, but it was time to just move on. These legacy systems are insufficiently integrated. They’re hard to navigate, and there’s not very good workflow to automate certain processes.”

Buenavidez said he started working on the technology for the Bar's admissions system in March 2018, and it launched one year later.

“The whole RFP process was great,” the CIO said. “In selecting a vendor, we used Slalom. It’s a great company to work with. Everybody’s very happy, and everything works. In 2020, we’ll be doing the LIMS (licensee information management system).”

Also coming from Salesforce, he said, will be a comprehensive law school portal — “They can just upload an applicant’s transcript.”

According to Jeff Vargas, one of the Salesforce account executives who worked with Buenavidez on the project, the experience was positive for all concerned.

“It was a pleasure working with the California State Bar and their extended team,” Vargas told Techwire. “They’re truly professional, and they’re all very versed in project management and the requirements. And there were extensive requirements that added value to the project.”

Said Buenavidez: “Every (Salesforce) person we’ve dealt with in San Francisco has been amazing.” He noted that Salesforce had a representative on hand — “even during other vendors’ presentations for the RFP review panel. They helped make sure everything fit.”

With about five weeks until retirement, the 59-year-old CIO ran down his list of what’s done, and what’s left to do:

“The CMS (case management system) for trials, courts and probation are done; admissions is done. We’re doing Oracle now — we’ll finish by the end of the year or early next year. The systems talk to each other; they do payment, the handshake. That’ll flow right into the Oracle system. It flows today through (Oracle’s) J.D. Edwards ERP.

“I’m trying to fully reduce the footprint of my data center. We’re migrating to O 365 (Microsoft’s Office 365) — it’ll be done this year."

“And I have recruited some of the brightest and hardest-working staff. I’m confident in secure systems and people. That’s one of the things I’ve worked really hard at, is the recruitment and training. “

CIOs of other jurisdictions often look at California for advice and leadership in IT, and the State Bar Association has been no exception.

“I get called upon by other state bars,” Buenavidez said. “‘What are you guys doing with this particular technology, or that process?’” 

(The California State Auditor's Office has its own views of The State Bar's tech wish list. In a report to the Legislature, the Auditor's Office agreed with State Bar requests totaling $13,165,000, and advised postponing another $3,485,000 in IT spending.)

To bring the story back to the beginning, how did jury duty lead Buenavidez to a 32-year career in government IT management?

“I got a job with Circuit City; they had just opened their West Coast headquarters," he said. "I was hired as a network and operations person. The next thing you know, I’m on jury duty. There was nothing to do, so I started reading the Daily Journal (a legal publication) and I see a System Administrator job for the State Bar, and I got hired.”

Buenavidez said he has no specific plans for once he gets out of the CIO business. But then, he never really had planned to get into it, either, and it’s worked out pretty well for him.

“It’s been a rewarding, remarkable career here at The State Bar.” 

Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.