Miriam Barcellona Ingenito

The leadership of the Financial Information System of California (FI$Cal) is working to raise awareness and use of its online dashboard and is tinkering with its AI-driven bot, known as FI$Bot.

FI$Cal is the state’s $900 million system for budgeting, accounting, procurement and cash management, and it’s run jointly by the Department of Finance, the Department of General Services, the State Controller's Office and the State Treasurer's Office.  

The latest FI$Cal newsletter, which came out Tuesday, includes a message from Director Miriam Barcellona Ingenito, who says: “We are continuously taking the pulse of system users to be sure we are improving and delivering the best customer service possible. Through our user-centered events such as Imagine FI$Cal, our townhalls and customer surveys, we are learning what’s working for you as well as where your pain points lie.”

State workers who use FI$Cal for procurement approvals and other functions responded to an agency survey that revealed a couple of popular features, some less-used functions, and an update on one.

“The survey results showed that most of you use and derive benefits from the University of FI$Cal and job aids,” the newsletter notes. “The new Dashboard, which gives users quick views of several self-service tools and reports, was rated highly by those who used it but was the least-accessed of the tools we asked about. The survey also confirmed that FI$Bot needs some work. I am happy to report that we have a team working on our chatbot to make it much smarter!”

FI$Bot, which was rolled out last year, is an AI-driven chatbot that guides state workers through the system.

FI$Cal held a series of “Imagine FI$Cal” workshops last spring at which participants were queried on what features and new initiatives the agency could pursue to make state employees more effective.

“We would like to hear from more of you,” the newsletter says. “Please look out for our monthly surveys. Completing the survey allows you to make your voice heard. We are listening!”

FI$Cal isn’t the only state agency that’s relying on chatbots to make online transactions more efficient and less labor-intensive. The Department of Motor Vehicles, for instance, just rolled out its chatbot, known as Miles. It helps customers navigate the website to more easily find what they’re looking for, especially information about what’s needed to obtain a new federally required Real ID. The DMV chatbot was a product of Salesforce, Slalom and Verizon, among other vendors, and it’s the first of several tech initiatives the department is pursuing as it seeks to improve.

FI$Cal’s latest newsletter also includes “FI$Facts for September,” which publishes and answers questions from users. This month’s batch deals with Month-End Close and Year-End Close, two accounting functions, and includes these questions:

Question: Can I close submodules before running labor?

Answer: Recently updated month-end close policy does allow you to close submodules before running labor.

Question: Can I run depreciation before or while running the cost allocation process?

Answer: If a department does not have asset allocations, depreciation can be run before the cost allocations. However, the asset allocations must be run after Accounts Payable and Purchase Order modules are closed.