California CIO Liana Bailey-Crimmins

Sep 14 2022

Q&A: California CIO Liana Bailey-Crimmins Values People and Innovation

The longtime state government official sees opportunities for reform in employee training, IT modernization and other priorities.

In June 2022, Liana Bailey-Crimmins transitioned from CTO to CIO for the state of California, appointed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom. As head of the California Department of Technology, Bailey-Crimmins has a large portfolio, and she has seized the opportunity to move forward with some of her state’s most ambitious initiatives.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored some challenges and opportunities for CDT. StateTech asked Bailey-Crimmins about how her agency can capitalize on both through employee training, procurement reform, technology funding, technology modernization and broadband expansion.

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STATETECH: CDT is refreshing the focus on employee training generally and cybersecurity training specifically. Will this be a big lift for California?

Bailey-Crimmins: When the pandemic hit, California shifted nearly 80 percent of its 250,000-member workforce to remote work in the space of a month. During that hectic period, we were required to deliver mandated training to a state workforce that was, for the most part, isolated at home.

We put our heads together to imagine how we could continue to deliver a first-rate program to our state tech community and what that program would look like. The result was to move 100 percent of professional development online. That move and the massive influx of employees online gave rise to the issue of security and spotlighted the importance of and need for qualified cybersecurity specialists. California state government’s physical IT assets experience over 400 million malicious probes daily, so cybersecurity is a big part of our training and one that we take very seriously.

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Every state employee is required to undergo annual cybersecurity training, and we provide excellent professional development programs for our community of public security professionals. One of our most popular training vehicles is the Information Security Leadership Academy, which prepares professionals for expanded roles within their security offices. Seeing the success of this academy, we created a less time-intensive cybersecurity offering geared for senior professionals looking to refresh their skills in methodology and best practices — the Cybersecurity Boot Camp.

We also looked to the future and established a cybersecurity pipeline that will help the state fill necessary security positions. This includes co-hosting the annual California State Cybersecurity Education Summit, which drew 1,200 participants last year; working with other state entities and partnering with community colleges, California State University and University of California communities as part of the governor’s Cybersecurity Task Force for Workforce Development and Education Subcommittee to create a cybersecurity degree program; and encouraging California schools and students to participate in the CyberStart America program.

STATETECH: Procurement reform seems to be a priority for CDT. In the early days of the pandemic, we saw state governments exercising emergency authority and procuring things very quickly. Are any changes inspired by that sort of authority

Bailey-Crimmins: California had been undergoing a procurement renaissance for the past several years. It’s part of a statewide culture change that rethinks how the state conducts business and how we ideate and deliver procurement. Like many governments, emergency procurements were a regular occurrence for us during 2020. CDT delivered 75 emergency procurements that year, averaging only 11 days each. Inspired by our ability to produce quick procurements in an emergency and under the leadership of our governor, we’ve permanently changed the way we think about what’s possible. Agility is the focus, and speed is the goal.

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Our vision is to make procurement easier, fair and reasonable for all parties involved. CDT’s responsibility is to identify the approach that delivers the best value for our state partners. To accomplish this, we streamlined our approaches through initiatives like challenge-based procurement, modernized requests for proposals and modular contracting. Currently, we’re working to create a Technology Procurement Community of Practice to drive participation and engagement statewide and provide better communication about the procurement process to the vendor community. We envision a community network of public and private sector professionals sharing similar interests, understanding and experience with California’s technology procurement best practices.

Liana Bailey-Crimmins
We’re committed to closing the digital divide through other Broadband For All initiatives.”

Liana Bailey-Crimmins CIO, State of California

STATETECH: CDT created a new state Technology Modernization Fund support model for state departments that bypasses the traditional project funding model. What can you tell us about it?

Bailey-Crimmins: CDT realized that if immediate funds were available, the state could deliver and improve critical services through agile solutions in days and weeks rather than the months and years. So, we established the state’s Technology Modernization Fund in 2021. The TMF is a $25 million competitive grant program that targets smaller, high-value IT projects and makes immediate investments to modernize, innovate and rapidly improve digital state services, and increase the security of California’s digital government.

The first funding round launched in November 2021 with four projects, and the second round occurred in May 2022 with six projects. The TMF reached a milestone in May, when the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s TMF-funded Registered Service Agency portal zipped from business challenge to minimum viable product and became the first project to go live only five months after being selected.

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STATETECH: During the pandemic, many states and the federal government experienced issues with critical legacy systems, such as processing unemployment insurance claims. What has California done to mitigate such issues in the future?

Bailey-Crimmins: California experienced some extremely turbulent times when COVID-19, wildfires and public safety power shutoffs demanded we respond to multiple crises simultaneously. We rose to the challenge and discovered the state could stabilize critical programs and deliver new services with speed and agility. We have now created reliable and effective technology focused on delivering public services during difficult times.

The stabilization initiative meshes with our statewide IT strategic plan, Vision 2023, which articulates a long-term vision for state technology by putting users first, making regular progress and investing in IT foundations. The initiative helps us create a seamless experience where Californians can access public services with confidence and accelerates the move to stabilize and transform government processes and operations.

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STATETECH: You’ve also been working on your state’s broadband initiatives. What do you think are the remaining barriers to widespread high-speed broadband adoption, and what are the current goals for California in closing the digital divide?

Bailey-Crimmins: Broadband for All is California’s commitment to closing the digital divide. We discovered just how essential broadband is for vital services and opportunities, but millions of our residents still lack adequate broadband service or the devices and skills to use it. The Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative is a $6.5 billion, multiyear investment that will create a 10,000-mile broadband network to enable high-speed connectivity for all Californians. We’re scheduled to break ground on the first project in October. We’re committed to closing the digital divide through other Broadband For All initiatives, including promotion of the Affordable Connectivity Program and the creation of our state’s digital equity plan.

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