By Miriam Barcellona Ingenito, Director of FI$Cal
I am happy to report on all the progress we have achieved at FI$Cal plus some exciting new developments as we start 2021. Despite COVID-19 forcing a move to telework early in 2020, we managed to get closer to our goal of the full integration of California’s cash management, procurement, accounting and budget processes.
Today, FI$Cal stands as one of the biggest and most dynamic business-transformation undertakings in California’s history. It’s a working system with approximately 15,000 end users processing more than $360 billion in expenditures each year. The State Treasurer’s Office functionality handles about $2 trillion in state government banking transactions annually. And over 120,000 vendors sell their goods and services to the state utilizing FI$Cal via Cal eProcure.
In September, FI$Cal submitted Special Project Report (SPR) 9 to the California Department of Technology (CDT). It defined what remains as part of the FI$Cal project, including formally closing out seven areas of major functionality that had been deployed for more than a year. CDT approved SPR 9, acknowledging that most of the project has been successfully completed.
After years of steady progress, we expect to finish the State Controller’s Office (SCO)/State Treasurer’s Office (STO) Integrated Solution in July of this year. The new functionality will allow SCO to produce the Budgetary Legal Basis Annual Report and Comprehensive Annual Financial Report in parallel systems.
Not only will we reach the key milestone of building out the project, FI$Cal state staff are working towards taking full control of managing the system as we wind down the contract with our system integrator, Accenture. The Accenture team has been a valuable partner in this journey, but it is now time for FI$Cal staff to complete the knowledge transfer. Our IT staff will be stepping up to take the reins to support the PeopleSoft and Hyperion system, produce system enhancements and help users with the most complex system issues.
As the FI$Cal project nears the end, we remain focused on operating and maintaining a modern system for our customers. This past year, we released or improved upon numerous enhancements and tools to improve user experience and customer service, continually adding innovation to the system. Below are some examples of our top initiatives aimed to better serve our customers.
FI$Cal added to Department 360, a department-specific dashboard that provides quick access to several tools and reports. We also rolled out a tool to automate month-end close and streamline the process. Departments can run the tool and it will systematically close their fiscal periods.
In July, we partnered with the Department of General Services and the California Prison Industries Authority (CALPIA) to develop an online “punchout web catalog” that interfaces directly with the FI$Cal system. This catalog operates like a modern e-commerce website, allowing FI$Cal users to shop and submit CALPIA orders.
In the fall, we began the release of a series of work centers, by module and function, which enable users to access specific and prioritized tasks and actions in a central location. We also added several modules to FI$bot, our ever-evolving chatbot.
Through Microsoft Power BI and Azure Synapse Analytics, FI$Cal is bringing innovation and cloud computing to state finances. FI$Cal developed and deployed new commitment control (KK) dashboards and reports, as well as a budget-to-actuals report. We also initiated a COVID-19 transaction dashboard that can track the state’s pandemic-related spending. These new tools are part of FI$Cal’s continuing effort to expand departments’ ability to explore, analyze and report their own insights and trends from data.
Additionally, we are deploying robotic process automation (RPA) in a number of important tasks. RPA automates many of the more mundane, repetitive tasks that workers perform, such as loading purchase orders or extracting documents from multiple transactions, and does it dramatically faster.
Our customer service continues apace after having transitioned last year from
in-person user support labs to virtual sessions. User demand remains strong, with classes filling up quickly. We continue to offer town halls, forums, workshops, and monthly FI$CalTv webcasts that are all well-attended.
The latest episode of FI$CalTv, was a launch party to celebrate the brand new FI$Cal Learning Center (FLC), which now serves as the face of FI$Cal training to our client departments. The FLC, which opened January 19, is a one-stop, centralized learning experience where end users can find all of our training content so they can master the skills they need to become confident and successful system users.
All of our efforts and hard work by our joint support teams from the Department of Finance and SCO appear to be successful. Departments are already closing 11% faster this year than they were at this time last year. We have always maintained that there is a three-year learning curve, and with our larger, more complex departments now approaching their third year using the FI$Cal system, we expect the progress to continue.
A major accomplishment, FI$Cal made the state government’s financial information more transparent through Open FI$Cal, the website that opened California’s books to the public. As of July, the site displays expenditure information for 150 departments transacting in the FI$Cal system, updated every month, and it continues to evolve. Over $400 billion in expenditures have been listed on the site so far, totaling more than 20 gigabytes of data.
And finally, we started 2021 with a new Strategic Plan that highlights our mission, vision, and goals for the next five years. Our customers stand at the forefront of what we do and will continue to be our top priority. This plan is our commitment to continue to enhance our system functionality and services using innovative solutions.
I am very proud of all that we have accomplished this past year. While 2020 presented many challenges due to the pandemic, FI$Cal continued to thrive.