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FI$Cal Chief Ingenito Offers Recap of ‘Milestone,’ Looks Ahead to Vendor Opportunities

Bringing all remaining state agencies and departments into the state’s accounting and budget system means robotic process automation and end-user training will offer key opportunities for vendors to help.

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The leader of one of the few state government departments that interacts with virtually every other state entity offered a look back and a peek ahead this week during a Techwire Member Briefing.

Headshot of Miriam Barcellona Ingenito.
Miriam Ingenito, director of FI$Cal.
Miriam Ingenito, who this month marked her sixth year as the director of the Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal), was the subject of a virtual interview on Wednesday in which she provided Techwire members an overview of the department’s past year that culminated over the summer with what she calls “a milestone.”

“We’ve crossed another big one,” Ingenito said in the briefing. “This past July 1, we crossed the finish line on this FI$Cal project. We put in the final functionality of the FI$Cal project. … It’s been a journey.”

She said “this last bit of functionality” was the inclusion of the State Controller’s Office (SCO) and State Treasurer’s Office (STO) into “the integrated solution,” with the ultimate goal of those departments turning off their own legacy systems, which have been running in parallel with FI$Cal’s systems, and entering her department’s domain.

Ingenito’s by-the-numbers view of FI$Cal:

  • “We’ve got 31 terabytes of data today.”
  • “We did $3.2 trillion of banking transactions last year in the system.” That compares to an annual average of $2.3 trillion to $2.5 trillion before the COVID-19 spike.
  • “We did over half a trillion dollars in accounting expenditures in the system.”

With that milestone now crossed and the system up and operational, Ingenito said, “we are now in that transition from ‘project’ to ‘What does it look like as a Department of FI$Cal, and how do we continue to serve our 150-plus departments, 15,000 end users and, of course, the four control agencies, all while bringing transparency to the public in ways that have never been done before to this level.’ So it’s an exciting time.”

Ingenito noted that the department makes most of its data publicly available through Open FI$Cal, which offers downloadable data, including that specifically related to COVID-19 expenditures. The department has also recently linked its Open FI$Cal data to the California Government Operations Agency’s open data portal.

“It definitely is a priority of mine, to figure out how to make more data available to the general public … and to the extent that we can make it self-service, it saves the departments time and energy,” she said.

Looking ahead, Ingenito sees a lot of potential for FI$Cal to incorporate more robotic process automation (RPA) as it moves to a maintenance-and-operations mode.

“Internal to FI$Cal, we’re looking at automating a lot of the forms – things that the Department of Finance is required to do as we report up. … We’re automating some of our HR documents.

“We’re piloting ‘blind hiring,’” she said, with the goal of removing bias in the screening and hiring process. “To take that bias out, we’re looking at robotic process automation to redact your name, your age, your gender … so we’re just evaluating on the skills presented in the application.

“Systemwide, we’re looking at how do we get rid of some of those manual processes” that require FI$Cal to manually cross-check its data with that provided by departments.

Ingenito said she’s working with the Department of Finance and the SCO to being in a robotic process tool that can help with that reconciliation of data, which she said takes two to three weeks when done manually.

In addition to RPA, another potential vendor opportunity ahead for FI$Cal involves invoicing, which she described as a “huge, huge pain point for a lot of departments.”

And finally, the big challenge on the horizon is bringing in the 10 state departments whose own accounting and budget systems have reached or are nearing the end of their functional life cycles – meaning FI$Cal will need tech help with training and onboarding thousands of new users from large departments such as the California Department of Transportation, the Department of Rehabilitation, and the California Department of Technology.

The full 30-minute briefing with Ingenito is available online to Techwire members. Techwire digs a little deeper into Ingenito’s perspectives in a “Techwire One-on-One” interview, scheduled for publication next week.
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.