Subbarao Mupparaju, Chief Deputy Director, Department of FISCal
In 2023, we achieved significant milestones which have allowed us to set the groundwork for future activities for the Department of FISCal (FI$Cal). At the end of 2022, Assembly Bill (AB) 156 deemed the FI$Cal project complete as of July 1, 2022 and defined future activities to continue to onboard deferred departments, enhance, upgrade and ensure the alignment of the FI$Cal system with the state’s financial management processes. We’ve taken on this charge in earnest, laying the groundwork for the roadmap activities that will guide us over the next decade and focusing on our current 18-month portfolio. Over the course of the past year, we have had significant accomplishments.
We released 121 enhancements to improve user experience and customer service, continually adding innovation to the system. Enhancements to the FI$Cal system represent an ongoing feedback loop with end users and departments to ensure their needs are being met. Enhancements also represent our call to maintain a modern system as part of ongoing maintenance and operation and include the latest statutory requirements, security upgrades and updated system functionality.
Included in these enhancements were updates to dashboards, reports and system functionality to improve the month-end close and year-end close processes. We have seen departments continuously improve in closing their books and completing their statements using the FI$Cal system. By early September 2023, 74 percent of departments submitted financial statements for fiscal year 2022-23, as compared to 67 percent for fiscal year 2021-22 and 47 percent for fiscal year 2020-21.
In January, FI$Cal enhanced the Fund Reconciliation report to assist departments with streamlining the reconciliation process to prevent differences at year-end and ensure appropriations are within established limits.
We also implemented the Golden State Financial Market Place (GS $MART) procurement solution in the FI$Cal system. This new functionality provides departments with the ability to conduct lease procurements and contract administration. GS $MART is an innovative acquisition finance program designed to facilitate the installment of lease purchases by state of California agencies and local governments, while meeting all the requirements of a competitive bid process.
Notably, FI$Cal worked in partnership with the Department of General Services (DGS) to create a statewide portal for DGS customers to search, view and print their department’s invoices from DGS. This allows all DGS customers access to the FI$Cal-initiated invoices. The enhancement includes automated emailing of invoices to non-state department customers.
Cybersecurity is a top priority for the department. In 2023, we advanced our efforts to technically optimize the system and improve our cybersecurity maturity using a combination of on-premise and cloud-hosted technologies. In November, FI$Cal implemented an upgrade to the underlying technology for the PeopleSoft application within the FI$Cal system. This upgrade is part of our ongoing maintenance and operations and will improve performance and enhance security within the system.
We continued our journey to the cloud, and as part of our 18-month portfolio, implemented a disaster recovery solution on the Amazon cloud. The solution increases system resiliency and will protect against major disasters affecting system availability. In addition, we have completed the first phase of migrating our key back-office systems and services to the cloud. Our staff can now perform their functions through cloud-based virtual private networks and virtual desktops without any downtime and without reliance on the information technology (IT) infrastructure at our office.
We have begun the process of onboarding the remaining deferred departments. These departments were deferred from the initial releases, as most had their own enterprise resource planning systems in place during the initial onboarding of departments. Now, onboarding these deferred departments is one of our top priorities before their systems reach end of life. We are well under way with onboarding the California Department of Technology and the Department of Rehabilitation and have begun efforts to onboard the California Department of Transportation.
In July, the Governor signed AB 127 into law, which establishes a date for the FI$Cal system to become the accounting book of record for statewide reconciliation, transaction processing and year-end close processes. Specifically, AB 127 establishes July 1, 2026, as the date the State Controller’s Office (SCO) will transition the state’s accounting book of record to FI$Cal and December 31, 2023 for SCO to provide FI$Cal with the necessary system and interface requirements and to work with FI$Cal to develop a timeline for completing the accounting book of record functionality. Through collaboration, we have already completed the subset validation in September 2023, which is one of the data validation efforts towards the FI$Cal system becoming the accounting book of record
FI$Cal continues to make the financial information of the state of California significantly more transparent through Open FI$Cal, the website that opened California’s “books” to the public. In August, FI$Cal made changes to enhance Open FI$Cal’s downloadable data site with an in-house Power BI transparency report and an Azure-based file storage where expenditure data files are available for download. Just as before, the new site is accessible from the Access FI$Cal page on FI$Cal’s public site.
We place the highest value on customer support. We resolved around 37,000 customer support cases in 2023. Through continuous improvements including efficient triage and internal notifications, we resolved 84 percent of these cases in less than five days and 94 percent of these cases in less than two weeks. Along with the Customer Impact Committee, the FI$Cal Learning Center (FLC) and FI$Cal Service Center, we continue to seek feedback from system users through a comprehensive financial system survey to help identify areas of potential pain points, such as technology, workforce, policy or other issues, develop solutions in collaboration with our partners to enhance business transactions and provide exceptional customer service.
System end users are provided with continuous training through the FLC. In the FLC, end users can access virtual instructor-led trainings and web-based courses, as well as access job aids that provide step-by-step instructions for completing FI$Cal transactions. In addition, video how-to sessions are available to help answer commonly asked questions. End user playlists, training histories, course evaluations and more are also provided. Over the past year, the FLC has conducted 93 training sessions, updated 513 learning objects and created 275 new learning objects.
We also continue to adapt our work environment post-COVID. In early fall, the department modified its hybrid telework environment, with all staff returning to the office at least one day a week. Business services, procurement, human resources and IT teams worked diligently to ensure a safe return for staff to the office, setting up spaces, and purchasing and configuring equipment for all hoteling stations.
The important work that we’ve accomplished in 2023 would not be possible without the efforts of FI$Cal staff, partners and stakeholders. We successfully launched enhancements and provided customer service that enabled end users to improve with closing their books. We also made strides to ensure the security of the system, moving more of our back-end functionality to the cloud. What’s more, we developed reports that provide streamlined processes and valuable transparency data to the public. Thank you to all who made these accomplishments possible for continuing to provide the support and feedback necessary to maintain a secure and modern system.