The California Department of Technology Makes a Big Leap in Improving the Project Approval Lifecycle

When the California Department of Technology (CDT) rolls-out the Project Approval Lifecycle (PAL) 3.0 at the end of this month, it is expected to revolutionize the way IT projects are planned and approved. State law gives CDT oversight responsibility for IT projects. With a multi-billion dollar portfolio of active projects, CDT continuously seeks to improve the way it delivers government services to Californians with contemporary, reliable solutions.

Utilizing a new tool called Plan-IT, PAL 3.0 will deliver an enhanced automated experience to departments planning IT projects. Plan-IT is an on-line collaborative process between CDT and the departments it serves through its oversight role. Plan-IT replaces Word forms with easy to follow workflows. Online tool tips and reference materials are built-in to the process. It features electronic routing, internal approval and submission to CDT.

PAL 3.0 is the latest of continuous improvements made to the CDT project approval process over the years. Each version of the process has made PAL more efficient, saving the State valuable time and effort.

CDT project approvals began thirty years ago with a Feasibility Study Report (FSR) process.  At that time, it took departments an average of 24 months to conduct the feasibility study, document the FSR and complete the review and approval process.  Unlike PAL today, the procurement and contract award came after the project was approved and took an additional year to 18 months to complete. Departments went through the entire feasibility study process before finding out whether their projects would be approved or denied. The entire approval process could take up to 4 years to complete.

When PAL 1.0 was launched in 2015, it improved the FSR process by initiating four stages: 1) Business Analysis; 2) Alternatives Analysis (project alternatives); 3) procurement; and 4), select vendor, award contract, update final budget, plans and schedule. The total time for all four stages was approximately 3 years for the most complex cases.

PAL 2.0 was launched in 2016 and continued to improve the process. Sixty-five percent of the projects were delegated back to the agencies after stage 1 approval. PAL 2.0 shortened the total time for all four stages to little over a year to complete. In addition, historically two-thirds of projects required Special Project Reports (SPRs) due to overruns. Under PAL 2.0 no SPR’s have been triggered due to cost and schedule overruns.

The first wave of PAL 3.0 will be rolled out November 26, 2018. PAL 3.0 streamlines, automates, and makes the PAL project planning experience more interactive and collaborative. By implementing Plan-IT, the interactive web based tool for planning projects, CDT is refocusing departments on effectively planning projects using a guided experience and enabling the online development, tracking, and submission of reportable IT projects online. The PAL 3.0 tool has embedded guidance to support risk management and planning activities that are based on the size and complexity of the proposed effort. PLAN-IT can also be used in support of delegated projects that do not require CDT embedded oversight or approval. CDT will continue to make it a priority to facilitate effective project planning through collaboration and partnership with the departments it serves rather than using the traditional control agency approach.