By Miriam Barcellona Ingenito, Director of FI$Cal

The Financial Information System for California (FI$Cal) is working.

FI$Cal is working to keep government accountable by centralizing the state’s key financial information into a single system that improves accuracy, timely decision making and transparency into government spending.

FI$Cal is working for the departments that are paying their bills and balancing their budgets every day. Today, it serves as the accounting platform for 152 departments and more than 18,000 users processing $305 billion in expenditures each year. The State Treasurer’s Office functionality handles over $2 trillion in state government banking transactions annually. Our Open FI$Cal website provides transparency to the public of expenditure data for each department in the FI$Cal system.

FI$Cal is working as the first integrated financial management system for the state. It is actually a portfolio of projects because its scope is so wide – consistent with multiple individual IT projects in other states. For example, several states have implemented new budgeting or procurement solutions as separate stand-alone IT projects. The FI$Cal system includes budgeting, accounting, procurement and cash-management all in one place. It is the largest single integrated financial system in the public sector.

FI$Cal is working as it supports the financial management of the fifth-largest economy in the world – bigger than European powerhouses like the UK and France. FI$Cal not only replaces several aging legacy systems used throughout the state but it interfaces with the legacy systems to keep transactions and fund balances in sync during the transition. FI$Cal is charged with standardizing business processes for the state’s financial management that were previously managed in hundreds of different ways. This shows the sheer scale and complexity of the FI$Cal project.

Additionally, FI$Cal is a true accounting system that enables control agencies to enforce their policies because it requires a level of detail and proper entries not required by previous state systems.

I look forward to defining our IT project completion and success based on what functions are in operation. We are focusing on what remains – the final build-out of the system, departments successfully transitioning, and the ongoing maintenance of the system by the Department of FISCal.

This year we are building the final pieces of functionality that will make the FI$Cal system the state book of record to be used by the State Controller’s Office to produce the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and other state reporting. With the project side winding down, we have refocused our efforts to help departments manage this momentous change.

We continue to enhance our customer support and improve the FI$Cal system with the latest technology, including more automated support. To date, we have made 156 enhancements to the system and 57 are in the pipeline. We are using artificial intelligence to boost the capabilities of our chatbot, which offers self-service answers to questions. We are introducing a new cloud-based business intelligence tool to bolster the ability of departments to utilize and report their own data.

Moreover, we have taken numerous steps to directly help department users throughout the state. During the last year and a half, we have held nearly 1,000 in-person user support lab sessions, aired more than 100 training/support webcasts to end users, and have overseen more than 50,000 self-guided courses completed at the University of FI$Cal – our online education center.

We have held 65 user forums and town hall meetings for departments to appear in person or online to discuss issues with leadership and ask questions. And we have moved aggressively to tackle our service ticket volumes, resolving users’ issues more quickly than ever. I am happy to report that we are seeing overall improvement in how departments are transacting in the system.

In an effort to best serve our customers, we continuously seek feedback from system users and work directly with them on solutions. Last year we held two design-thinking “Imagine FI$Cal” events – a three-day session in Sacramento and a one-day event in Los Angeles. End users came up with concepts on how to improve training, customer service and system performance. Many of our latest initiatives and system enhancements were born out of these workshops.

As the system is built out this year, we will accelerate our focus on innovation, transparency and system enhancements. We also will provide more education and training to workers who use the system. Our customers know that we are in this together and that we are well on the road to finishing a financial information system for California in which we all can take pride.