“A Revised Approach to IT Modernization: Centralized Revenue Opportunity System (CROS)”

Eric Steen is the Board of Equalization’s (BOE) CROS Project Director. The CROS project is an ambitious undertaking. It sets out to replace and enhance the existing automated systems for the collection of sales tax and other BOE duties.

In this paper, Eric Steen emphasizes the significance, especially when taking on large automation initiatives, of “pre-implementation” tasks. Steen states that vendor selection too often distracts departments from completion of these necessary preparatory tasks.

For Steen, there are three problems embedded in the traditional approach to large automation initiatives:

  • There are often responsibilities that are not addressed within the scope of the RFP/Vendor contract. Ignored or forgotten, these responsibilities become more costly and/or more noticeable – in the form of change orders or in a solution lacking in functionalities – when they emerge later.
  • Ignored responsibilities or tasks can end up being the cause of a project’s delayed implementation.
  • When a department’s staff doesn’t prepare adequately to participate in the solution in an effective way, they hand a lot of the control over to the vendor. This also leads to compromising functionality, raising costs, and vendor dependency.

To combat these possibilities, Eric Steen had his State staff work on “data preparedness” and interface documentation in tandem with the preparation of the bid process that selected the vendor.

His staff made significant headway in identifying problems with data, and doing data cleanup. In the process they became more familiar with the business and gained insights about where the challenges of the automation project would lie.

The State team now knows their business better and has experience working as a team – they can enter into contract with a vendor as equals due to their enhanced understanding of the project’s components. Steen concludes that working as equals based on accomplishments is critical to ensuring the success of any project that mixes State staff and its vendors.

To read the paper in its entirety, visit: https://www.boe.ca.gov/cros/pdf/Revised_Approach_to_IT_Projects.pdf

Steen, Eric. State of California, Board of Equalization. A Revised Approach to IT Modernization: Centralized Revenue Opportunity System (CROS). April: 2013.