State Consumer Affairs Seeks Budget Increase for IT Modernization

In a recent Budget Change Proposal, the California Department of Consumer Affairs is seeking the funding and staff to enable several of its entities to update aspects of their technology.

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The state department responsible for ensuring a “safe and fair marketplace” for California consumers is seeking additional budgetary funding to improve its underlying technology via business modernization.

In a recent Budget Change Proposal (BCP), the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) requested “one-time funding” of just more than $4.3 million and eight positions to enable 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) — all entities under its purview — to start implementing “their selected Business Modernization software alternative.” Among the takeaways:

  • The funding requests, submitted last month, represent “the necessary appropriation augmentations to cover system integration, software licensing, project management, credit card activities, project oversight costs,” plus eight positions — five of them in the department’s Office of Information Services to support project implementation. The department is seeking $735,000 and five positions in 2021-22, according to the BCP. By unit, SPCB is seeking $897,000; CAB is seeking $665,000 and one position; LATC is seeking $165,000; and CFB is seeking $902,000. In electronics and appliance repair, BHGS is seeking $1.1 million and two positions; in home furnishings and thermal insulation, it is seeking $389,000; and in household movers, it is seeking $202,000.
  • The department and the entities included in the request “have historically been required to use multiple outdated and inadequate IT systems to meet statutory requirements and respective business needs,” according to the BCP. Using “antiquated and disjointed” IT systems has resulted in “excessive turnaround times for licensing and enforcement activities” that have kept the programs from meeting goals and objectives. The programs’ existing systems also lack “an intuitive online public-facing portal” for licensees and consumers to interact with the state. The proposal, DCA said, would allow its entities to, generally, make their implementations. The programs, it said, have determined that a “robust software solution capable of interacting with other software applications in real-time and implementing functionality in an incremental manner” during the project’s course is the best way to achieve the modernization. Project duration is expected to be 18 months, and the four programs are working through the California Department of Technology’s Project Approval Lifecycle.
  • If the funding is improved, implementation is slated to begin July 1, the start of the 2021-2022 fiscal year. DCA will “execute software implementation, hire new staff, onboard vendors,” it said. The department will also identify “incremental production release targets” over the duration of the project, and schedule and group system requirements into “a refined backlog of user stories” to facilitate agile development. From July-December 2022, the state and vendor staff will engage in “an iterative approach that includes development, system testing, and end-user testing,” to blunt the risk of potentially “investing development resources in a solution” that doesn’t meet the vision. The approach, the BCP points out, was used successfully on the Cannabis Licensing, Enforcement, and Reporting (CLEaR) Project.
  • Project goals and objectives center on four areas. In enforcement, they include creating an “intuitive public-facing online consumer complaint portal,” standing up a “mobile-friendly inspection module” to enable more efficient operations in the field; reducing the number of days required to complete the enforcement process; and applying best practices to shrink processing times via workflow monitoring tools. In the area of licensing, they include delivering a public-facing portal that can take electronic payments; setting up a way to “communicate application deficiencies in real-time”; allowing efficient resource utilization “to process examination, licensure, and renewal applications” and maintaining an effective program to maximize customer service. In customer and stakeholder service, they include improving online tools and activities for stakeholders; and cutting the costs of printing and mailing hard copy application documents. And in emerging technologies, they include implementing new functionality incrementally “to decrease the length of time to deploy software solutions”; reducing the risk around organizational change management and data conversion by utilizing newer software platforms more capable of integrating; and monitoring other technology solutions.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.