The California State Capitol in Sacramento. 

Feb 18 2019

California Unveils New Office of Digital Innovation

The proposal calls for an office to evaluate the state’s delivery of digital services as well as a new innovation academy.

California is home to Silicon Valley, a vital center of high tech in the private sector. The state’s government wants an infusion of that innovation. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom used his $209 billion 2019-2020 budget blueprint to propose in January the creation of a new Office of Digital Innovation to help streamline the state’s delivery of digital services. The proposal also calls for a new innovation academy aimed at modernizing state government, as well as additional IT training. 

The innovation office would sit within the state’s Government Operations Agency and have an initial startup budget of $36.2 million. It would employ 50 people and have an annual budget of $14.6 million.

The budget proposal came shortly after Newsom signed an executive order aimed at modernizing the state’s approach to procurement. As Techwire reports, it “promotes a new procurement tool that allows for solution development and collaboration on the front end of the process, instead of requiring payment before service delivery.”

MORE FROM STATETECH: Learn about California CIO Amy Tong’s top tech priorities. 

California Plans Innovation Push in State Government

The budget proposal notes that millions of Californians interact with government services every day: Residents apply for driver’s licenses, students compare financial aid options and small business owners apply for licenses or pay business taxes. 

“Too often, outdated tools and complex systems make these interactions cumbersome and frustrating,” the document states. “Additionally, manual processes and the lack of digital service delivery often require individuals to take time off work and go to a physical office to interact directly with government staff.” 

California must “transform from a passive governance model that largely responds to individual statutory and policy mandates” into a state that “actively establishes measurable customer service benchmarks and leading digital service delivery from a programmatic and statewide perspective.”

To do that, the new innovation office would have the authority to create and enforce requirements for state departments to “assess their service delivery models and underlying business processes from an end-user perspective.” Newsom’s proposal contends that the office will improve the accessibility and reliability of the state’s critical services by focusing on “business process reengineering and leveraging digital innovation, where appropriate.”

The innovation office will work with departments and stakeholders throughout the state to implement “user-centric design, iterative software development, customer feedback loops, and other tools necessary to build a culture of continuous program improvement and 21st century service delivery methods.”

Additionally, the office will be able to offer insights into the coordination of service delivery across departments. 


The budget proposes one-time funding of $20 million to allow the office to assist departments with the tools and resources necessary to “address prioritized needs and to demonstrate transformational customer-focused digital service delivery.” 

In tandem with the innovation office, the budget proposes a “scalable innovation academy focused on continuous process improvement, human change management, executive sponsorship, and a customer-centric mindset.” The academy would be mandatory for state supervisors, managers and executives, with the curriculum aligned to the audience

The budget also proposes additional IT training for state staff in agile and other modern development methods to “improve successful service delivery with a focus on continuous improvement.” California has already started investing in modular procurements and agile project development, rather than depending on a single vendor for delivery, in an effort to cut costs and reduce risks. 

However, the budget notes, the state’s current project managers generally lack expertise in managing these efforts, particularly agile development. “While the state has agile curriculum developed, more emphasis on training is necessary for state project managers and information technology staff to experience success with these methods, which have proven successful in the private sector for years,” the budget states. 

Notably, Techwire reports

Newsom’s budget announcement does not mention the California Department of Technology (CDT), which initiated its own Digital Services Innovation Academy last May, headed by state Chief Innovation Officer Scott Gregory. DSIA is one of four CDT academies, the others being the flagship Information Technology Leadership Academy, the Project Management Leadership Academy and the Information Services Leadership Academy.

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