By Miriam Barcellona Ingenito, Director of FISCal
On September 22, California celebrated the successful implementation of the most ambitious information technology (IT) and business transformation project in state history – The Financial Information System for California, commonly known as FI$Cal.
The story of FI$Cal began in 2005 with a total of five state employees tasked with replacing one internal facing budget system for the Department of Finance at a proposed cost of $140 million.
The focus of the project soon shifted to address the need to modernize the state’s entire financial management process into a single financial management system with an estimated cost of $1.6 billion.
On July 1, FI$Cal deployed the final functionality of the FI$Cal project. The vision to consolidate multiple financial systems into a common platform for the state of California was realized.
The FI$Cal system is immense. It serves as the accounting platform for 150 departments and more than 15,000 users processing $436 billion in expenditures each year. In a single year, the system deals with expenditures equal to the budgets of the next five largest states combined, in other words, greater than the expenditures of any company in the world. The success of this project can be attributed to staying true to our core mission, leveraging technology and making data-driven decisions.
FI$Cal’s core mission is to operate the statewide financial system to enable California to perform budgeting, procurement, cash management and accounting functions transparently and efficiently. Over the years, we have stayed true to that mission by focusing on the people who make it happen, ensuring our staff and contractors feel supported, trusted and valued as well as working to find common ground with our partners.
In that effort, our recent department reorganization was focused on meeting specific business needs such as customer support, change management, and project management to facilitate the delivery of the best possible customer service to department end users. FI$Cal invests heavily in employee development and career growth and we pay special attention to recruitment practices to hire the most qualified employees who are committed to the department and its mission. Yet, we remain fluid, making changes and adjustments as needed while still remaining practical about what is possible and what can wait until later.
We have demonstrated what can be done in a public organization staffed with talented and dedicated employees who consistently innovate, collaborate, and engage with their customers. We boldly leveraged new technology, turning to many of the latest advancements in the industry including Microsoft Power BI, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Robotic Process Automation. We adapted our approach to software development, moving to the Agile process to better meet customer requests and department goals. And we rigorously test system performance, constantly asking, “What could go wrong?”
Over the years we worked tirelessly to reduce contractor costs and maximize state benefits. Now that FI$Cal is the owner and operator of the state’s integrated cash management, accounting, budget and procurement system we have already begun to streamline the way state government does business. We are focused on continual system education and knowledge transfer to enable state of California employees to maintain and operate the FI$Cal system.
Data is the key to all of our decision making. We’re relentlessly monitoring our internal Key Performance Indicators to make critical staffing and workload decisions. Externally, we’re providing a wealth of important information to our end users giving them insight into their processes and answers to their questions with applications like the work centers, content sensitive help links and, a new self-service ServiceNow portal in the FI$Cal Service Center.
FI$Cal is changing the way state government conducts business by injecting accountability and transparency into state accounting processes, getting high-value data to the people of California – one of the core reasons FI$Cal exists. For example, we just released a special dataset to our transparency site, Open FI$Cal, containing details of the state’s COVID-19 related expenditures through June 2020. With this addition, California residents can now explore in more detail what the state spent money on early in the COVID pandemic.
The success of the FI$Cal project should make all Californians proud and I know one state senator who is proud to have been part of this amazing project over the years, Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside).
“I’m pleased to think that I might be around to see the completion of a large, successful IT project in this state… I just wanted to tell the folks at FI$Cal thank you for your diligence and for moving this project forward and I’ll be there with you when we cross the finish line,” Roth said last February at the Senate Budget Subcommittee 4 hearing at the capitol.