As part of Techwire’s ongoing efforts to educate readers on state agencies, their IT plans and initiatives, here’s the latest in our periodic series of interviews with departmental IT leaders.
David Noronha is the longtime chief information officer at the California Department of Insurance, a position he has held since December 2010 — for nearly half of his 20-plus-year state career. Before joining the Department of Insurance, Noronha was deputy CIO for Clinical Information Systems at California Prison Health Care Services for nearly two years; before that, he served as its deputy director of IT for more than two years. Noronha, whose state career began in 1999 with a six-year term as IT manager at the California Department of General Services’ Division of the State Architect, has a bachelor's degree in Engineering and Electrical Engineering from NED University of Engineering and Technology and a master's degree from California State University, Sacramento. He is a Certified Project Manager by the Stanford Center for Professional Development.
Techwire: As CIO of your organization, how do you describe your role; and how have the role and responsibilities of the CIO changed in recent years?
Noronha: Insurtech-fueled disruption has created an ecosystem that has accelerated the digitization of the insurance industry. Traditional areas such as actuarial valuation, which relied on valuation manuals, have transitioned to stochastic models; predictive models now play a part in determination of rates; and interactions between consumers, providers and industry have gone virtual; hence, regulators must factor all of these into our business model. The role of IT at the California Department of Insurance (CDI) has evolved from developing back-office systems and keeping the lights on to effectively partnering with all program areas and enabling this digital transition as it continuously evolves and consumer needs change.
Editor’s note: Noronha indicates “insurtech” refers to the use of technology innovations designed to squeeze out savings and efficiency from the current insurance industry model. Insurtech is a combination of the words “insurance” and “technology,” inspired by the term “fintech.”
Techwire: How big a role do you personally play in writing your organization’s strategic plan?
Noronha: The Office of Strategic Planning is responsible for coordinating the development of strategic plans at CDI. I partner with the Office of Strategic Planning on technology-focused areas and, together with my IT Senior Management Team, work with all programs as they formulate their IT-driven business strategies.
Techwire: What big initiatives or projects are coming in 2020? What sorts of RFPs should we be watching for in the next six to 12 months?
Noronha: Since 2018, CDI has been concluding major long-term initiatives; we first completed the Menu Modernization Project, a five-year, $22 million effort that successfully implemented 26 systems that formed the foundation of our digital transformation. Since then we have had other multiyear efforts, such as the Fraud Data Analytics Project, and transition of our consumer and licensing hotlines to the cloud. We are currently in planning mode for our next four-year cycle and hope to complete this in the next few months.
Techwire: How do you define “digital transformation,” and how far along is your organization in that process? How will you know when it's finished?
Noronha: Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how we operate and deliver value to consumers. There was a time when new technologies came in cycles or generations, (but) disruption reduced the time frame between cycles to a point where change has become a continuous part of life in the technology industry. By the same token today, an organization’s digital transformation is a journey in terms of a starting point; however, once you start, organizations soon find themselves in what Gartner in 2018 called the “ContinuousNext.” Since 2016, consumers can file a request for assistance, anytime, anywhere and with any device; and we leverage analytics at intake and key points in our fraud processes. Key systems have moved from applications built by project to products with continuously updated life cycles. So, we started this journey a few years back and as the industry’s tech-fueled innovation continues, we will continue to evolve, to support the needs of consumers.
Techwire: What is your estimated IT budget and how many employees do you have? What is the overall budget?
Noronha: The IT Budget for the California Department of Insurance is $22.4 million ($7.4 million Program Support IT, $15 million Information Technology Division). The total authorized positions as of FY 2020-21 is 1,416.5. The State Operations budget of the California Department of Insurance for FY 2020-21 is $241.4 million. Please note: We did not include the Local Assistance budget that goes directly to the district attorneys.
Techwire: How do you prefer to be contacted by vendors, including via social media such as LinkedIn? How might vendors best educate themselves before meeting with you?
Noronha: It is our procurement policy not to meet with vendors; however, vendors can provide their information to ITDProcurement@insurance.ca.gov and provide contact information and product/service offerings. Vendors should be able to identify available contracting vehicles such as leveraged procurement agreements and also provide resellers or potential partners.
Techwire: In your tenure in this position, which project or achievement are you most proud of?
Noronha: The Menu Modernization project would be my most significant achievement at CDI. I began my tenure here in late 2010 and spent the first four years putting a team together that planned, initiated and successfully delivered several major initiatives. As we evolved as an IT organization, we have morphed from our focus on projects to products with planned life cycles, which is more in line with the continuous incremental delivery expectations of both CDI and the industry. Along the way, numerous other changes such as transition from a waterfall to a limited iterative approach, enhanced program ownership of IT products and participation in their development, and strengthening IT governance have all been part of this journey.
Techwire: If you could change one thing about IT procurement, what would it be?
Noronha: I don’t believe there is a single item about IT procurement that will make a significant difference. The entire stream starting with the Project Approval Lifecycle (PAL), BCP (budget change proposal), budget process, and RFP needs to be considered. With so many projects failing to meet their initial objectives, all of the above are necessary; however, there is significant room for improvement. For smaller departments like CDI, expanding the leveraged procurement options would also be very valuable.
Techwire: What do you read to stay abreast of developments in the gov tech/SLED sector?
Noronha: Industry journals, technical notes, documents and publications, research articles from major industry consulting houses, formal and information education.
Techwire: What are your hobbies, and what do you enjoy reading?
Noronha: Playing video games, watching or reading detective books or series, viewing sports and following certain sports.
Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for style and brevity.