Q & A: Agency CIO Andrew Armani gives historical perspective on state IT community

As the longest serving state agency CIO, Andrew Armani has been with the State and Consumer Services Agency (SCSA) for more than a decade. The agency oversees the Departments of Consumer Affairs, General Services, Franchise Tax Board and others including a total of 14 departments and 38 boards and commissions. To give some historical perspective on the state technology community, Andrew answered some questions for Techwire.net.

What are some of your major projects or initiatives?

Part of my responsibility at the Agency is to oversee mission critical and/or public facing projects both department and agency wide. So I will talk about the agency wide projects first and then I will mention a couple of major projects at department level.

Currently we are in process of consolidating our email systems throughout the Agency into one system and will house it either at OTech under what is called CA Mail or the other offering called California Email Services (CES). One of the departments under our agency is conducting a pilot to ensure the new system will accommodate the requirements both from business and security point of view. It is my understanding that we will start the migration in the weeks to come.

The next two consolidations are California Government Enterprise Network (CGEN) and Date Center Consolidation (DCC). As for the CGEN, some of the departments have already migrated to the new network and the rest are in planning stages. To be prepared for the DCC, departments are first consolidating and virtualizing their environments internally most of which have done so already. The virtualization has given the departments opportunity to reduce their data center footprint before migrating to an authorized Tier III facility.

We also have several major projects at the department level. The first one I would like to mention is Enterprise Data to Revenue (EDR). This project replaces FTB’s income tax return processing systems to make them better, faster and cheaper by capturing more of FTB’s existing data. EDR addresses California’s $6.5 billion tax gap. (Annual difference between what is owed and what is paid). Another project worth mentioning is BreEZe. The project will provide the Department of Consumer Affairs’ 38 boards, bureaus, and committees with a new enterprise-wide enforcement and licensing system. Both projects just started and we are closely following their progress.

How long have you been with the State and Consumer Services Agency?

This is my 11th year on this job. The position of Agency Information Officer (AIO) was created by the state CIO’s office. The idea was to have a CIO at each super Agency so they would coordinate the Information Technology (IT) efforts with their departments and work on statewide initiatives with the State CIO. We started with six AIOs. I have worked with three state CIOs including our current CIO Carlos Ramos. At the request of the State CIO, I also created and became the director of the eServices office and brought the common look and feel to all the departments under the Executive branch.

What departments do you oversee, and what is your approach to managing them?

The SCSA oversees 14 departments and several Boards and Commissions. Managing IT for this agency is complex and challenging yet very interesting since each department has a completely different line of business. And as such it requires a good understanding of each entity’s mission and operation.

In my opinion, collaboration is the key to success in any environment. Throughout my career I have learned that most everyone would like to do a good job if allowed. There are times that I need to help someone make a decision or mentor them and of course I am there to do so. I work with my CIOs to come up with solutions at agency level. Things that can be standardized such as PCs or commonly used software such as office productivity software are vetted at then made into policy. For other areas that we can’t find a lot of common grounds we try the federated approach. We also look outside the agency and work with other entities and look for best practices. And last but not least, establishing trust and respect between the agency and departments is always on top of my agenda.

As the creator of the CIO Academy, what was your motivation for the annual event and what is this year’s theme?

I believe in education and training whole heartedly. I am always looking for ways to bring educational opportunities to state employees. When I started my position as the AIO, I had to learn everything on my own and draw from my past experiences to accomplish my obligations. The experience gave me the idea of creating a forum where we could share what I and others have learned with the new CIOs. That is when I approached some of our partners in the private sector and came up with the CIO Academy conference. Each year we invite people from public and private sectors to join us as part of an Advisory Board to come up with themes and sessions that deal with the issues at hand. This year’s theme deals with subjects ranging from streamlining the operation with limited budget to how motivate and retain staff.

As the CIO of DGS, can you talk about your priorities? Are you consolidating or reorganizing any of your programs?

I’ve been the interim CIO at the DGS for about six months now. My first priority was to assess and evaluate the IT shop and provide the director with some recommendations. The DGS like many other IT shops is going through internal and statewide consolidation. We came up with a service catalog and adjusted the true cost of IT for the department. Currently we are working on starting a pilot with several divisions within the DGS. We are also working on reorganizing the IT division where it would make sense.

What do you do in your off time?

I several interest beside IT. When I am away from the office I try to stay active because that is my nature. I enjoy home improvement very much no matter if it is electrical, plumbing or carpentry and that takes up most of my time. Not only I get to save money by doing the projects, I also get to see the result of my hard work.

Another hobby of mine is making wine. I have been doing that for over 12 years and I have won several awards at state and county fairs. It’s kind of fun when you get to drink your wine after a year or so of fermenting.

And last but not least, I enjoy flying RC planes with few other CIOs. I have always enjoyed the hobby since I was five or six but got involved in it seriously about five years a go. I now have about 12 planes of all sizes and shapes.

Any final thoughts?

We have come a long way since I became AIO eleven years ago. We have had several State CIOs with different visions. All and all, as a community we have been able to serve our departments and agencies which in turn serve people of California. I am proud to have been part of such community. I do appreciate the vision and leadership that our new state CIO (Carlos Ramos) is bringing to the table and I hope I can continue to be part of the solution to move California forward.

[Bill Maile worked with Andrew Armani six years ago at the State and Consumer Services Agency.]

Bill Maile was editor of Techwire from 2011 to 2016.