California innovation office changes name to avoid confusion with new agency with same name

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The California Department of Technology announced this week that it has changed the name of its Office of Digital Innovation, the in-house bureau responsible for developing new government applications and helping other state agencies with digital service delivery.

The reason: to avoid confusion with a new, separate Office of Digital Innovation created last Thursday when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the state’s budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

The old Office of Digital Innovation is now the Office of Enterprise Technology, which will continue to develop technological solutions to be implemented across state government, while the new Office of Digital Innovation focuses on front-end applications used by members of the public who interact with state government.

“We chose to rename our organization so that it reflects our role in supporting foundational, statewide technology offerings that will promote and enable innovation across government,” Scott Gregory, who leads CDT’s former innovation office and whose title has shifted from chief digital innovation officer to chief technology innovation officer, said in a press release. “We are confident that the relationship between the two organizations will be completely complementary and accomplish great things for the residents of our state.”

The two offices, when fully staffed up, will not be too far apart from each other in California’s bureaucratic flow chart. The Office of Digital Innovation will be housed under the Government Operations Agency, which is also CDT’s parent organization.

“Our organization will continue to focus on technology,” California Chief Information Officer Amy Tong said in the press release. “But not all challenges can be solved by technology alone, so ODI will be a vital resource for coming up with innovative, human-centered design solutions.”

Newsom has not yet appointed a leader for the new office, though in March he named Michael Wilkening, a former secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, as a special adviser on innovation and digital services. The Office of Digital Innovation will have a first-year budget of $20 million — expected to decrease to $14 million in subsequent years — as it builds a 50-person staff.

The office also, according to budget documents, will as its first assignment take on the Department of Motor Vehicles, which has endured many IT struggles in the past few years, notably the implementation of the federal government’s Real ID requirements for state-identification cards.

When the fleshed-out Office of Digital Innovation approaches the DMV, it will follow a “strike team” Newsom recently tasked to assess the department’s woes. Despite all the intersecting offices and task forces with “technology” or “innovation” in their names, the new Office of Digital Innovation was given a seal of approval by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan bureau that reviews budget proposals, though it did caution that the old and new Offices of Digital Innovation have the potential to duplicate each other’s work.

“It is the intent of the administration to avoid duplication of efforts between ODI and CDT,” analyst Brian Metzker wrote in March. “However, to avoid duplication, there may be a need to change some of the responsibilities and functions currently at CDT.”

The makeover of the old Office of Digital Innovation into the Office of Enterprise Technology appears to have fixed one bit of the duplication risk.

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California, California Department of Technology, Gavin Newsom, Office of Digital Innovation
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