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In Budget Proposal, Consumer Affairs Looks to Continue Modernization

The California Department of Consumer Affairs has submitted a budget change proposal seeking several million dollars in funding to continue an ongoing business modernization.

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The department charged with ensuring a “safe and fair marketplace” for California consumers is seeking funding from the revised version of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed state budget for an IT modernization.

In a budget change proposal (BCP) released May 13, the same day that Newsom released the “May revision” of his proposed 2022-2023 Fiscal Year state budget, the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) seeks nearly $4.3 million in one-time funding to enable five of its entities — the Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB), the California Architects Board (CAB), the Landscape Architects Technical Committee (LATC), the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau (CFB), and the Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS) — to start implementing their “selected business modernization software alternative,” in keeping with DCA’s business modernization plan. Among the takeaways:

  • By entity, DCA seeks $930,000 for SPCB, $713,000 for CAB, $176,000 for LATC and $791,000 for CFB. For BHGS, DCA seeks $489,000 in the area of electronics and appliance repair, $228,000 for home furnishings and thermal insulation and $954,000 for household movers. The figures, according to the BCP, “reflect the necessary appropriation augmentations to cover system integration, software licensing, project management, credit card activities, project oversight costs.” They also cover continued funding for eight positions, five of them in the department’s Office of Information Services (OIS) for “support project implementation” and three at CAB/LATC and BHGS for maintaining “program operations” while existing staff support the business modernization plan BMP) project. Department cost for five OIS positions in FY 2022-2023 is about $930,000 — costs that will be distributed among participating programs, built into their costs.
  • The entities within DCA rely on “antiquated legacy systems” that can’t provide the type of responsive, transparent service residents now expect as a result of current technology. Among the areas now lacking are in-field enforcement and even full-scale electronic payments. The entities must maintain “multiple ‘workaround’ databases” just for basic business functions. Via the BMP’s first stages and the California Department of Technology’s project approval life cycle (PAL), the DCA programs have each “documented ‘as-is’ processes, ‘could-be’ processes and business requirements” to support their goals. Market research showed some existing software solutions can upload data and produce in-field citations via laptop or mobile device. But with a modern IT system, the BCP says, “these programs will remain unable to achieve the process improvement opportunities revealed in their work to date. Public and licensee interactions will be inhibited and the programs will lack in the areas of automated workflow and business rules which might otherwise make staff more efficient. Conversely, a software solution that integrates with other apps would “decrease overall project risk” by enabling “multiple smaller software releases” during a project phase versus needing to go after replacing an entire system to achieve all functionality in one release.
  • The department has already done a minimum viable product implementation of the “Connect” system via its Business Modernization Cohort 1 (BMC 1) Project. Two additional major software releases have been done since, plus “dozens of stabilization or minor software releases to implement enhancements or system refinements, waivers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and fee changes.” Functionality implementations for BMC 1 programs include online application and license maintenance services, school inspection functionality, converting enforcement and inspection data for BPPE, developing seven online applications, two online consumer complaint forms, an interactive applicant dashboard, and back-office application evaluation workflows.
    “Leveraging a successfully implemented existing system with the Connect system is a prudent alternative to meet business needs during fiscal challenges,” according to the BCP.
  • DCA recommends approving the funding as sought — at which point it will do software implementation, hire staff, bring vendors onboard and “baseline project planning artifacts.” Further, it indicates identifying “incremental production release targets” throughout the project and grouping system requirements into a “a refined backlog of user stories” will make agile development easier. Additionally, OIS and the vendor’s staff will utilize an iterative approach with “development, system testing and end-user testing.” The only drawback to the approval, DCA indicates, is the cost. Two alternatives exist. Approving one-time funding of slightly more than $3.7 million in FY 2022-2023 and no funding for IT positions would let implementation of BMPs begin — but would still bring additional costs, and OIS would have to “redirect existing IT resources to facilitate the project,” degrading other services. And doing nothing, while resulting in no increased costs, would “halt or delay” BMP implementation.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.