Governments are overwhelmed balancing consumer expectations, aging workforce, regulations, rapid technology change and fiscal deficits. This blog gathers a community of SMEs who discuss trends and outline how public sector organizations can leverage relevant best practices to drive their software-led transformation and build the future of technology – today!

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The 'modular' future for HHS and the industry

The annual ISM conference held in Seattle this year was well attended, as usual. What was not usual was the tone of the sessions. This year the discussions shifted away from how vendors have new technology and solutions for the future to how States can improve operational efficiencies, for example, using 'Pilot' counties, training, communication and site readiness for a modular roll out. The focus was on 'business driven and technology enabled' instead of 'technology driven business', and how to build and roll out in small (modular) increments.

Although 'modularity' has been on the agenda for the last couple of years, the sessions this year focused on actual examples of modular execution. Federal agency chiefs spoke about their willingness to support States in implementing the new 'modular' paradigm and how vendors can advise States on the right way to implement a modular solution. It was evident that the age of big multiyear RFPs that require monolithic custom builds is over. The future requires COTS/SaaS/Packaged Solutions, and a vendor that is nimble and able to rapidly mobilize a workforce for a 12-month high burn implementation.

The format of the sessions had an interesting twist as well. Instead of one-sided presentations or panel discussions, moderators 'interviewed' State agency heads. The agency heads engaged the audience directly to describe their 'modernization' journey and lessons learned along the way.  For example, we had the Operations Director of a State's Child Welfare System and the Program Director from another State HHS agency discussing how each of their agencies handled their roll outs. The common theme was planning, buy-in, mobilization, and execution in phases of smaller/modular functionality. And, how the 'lessons learned' from one 'modular' roll out helped improve execution of the next. Most of the States have gone through the difficult journey of large procurements and multi-year implementations and now have the maturity to handle shorter and incremental progress.

My key takeaways from both the State agencies and the Federal directives are:

  • Child Welfare Information System (CWIS) is a key focus area and all States will be moving to CWIS from SACWIS over the next 12-18 months
  • The procurement is going to be 'modular' and vendors have to come to the table with some form of COTS, SaaS or a packaged solution
  • The modular breakdown of functionality might vary by State but the standard modular definitions of Reporter Portal, Intake, Investigations, Foster Care Licensing, Provider, and Financials will drive solution architecture
  • Although not explicitly stated or discussed, the logical follow up to Eligibility and CWIS will be Child Support Enforcement (CSE) modernization
  • Sizable workforce will have to be deployed rapidly on shorter procurements and this would require organizations to invest in training employees on HHS modular design and implementation methodology

States are beginning to understand how the procurements should be structured and now we know what their expectations are. Modular procurements and shorter implementation timelines will make things very interesting in the HHS space, and vendors the will have to adjust their operating models to stay in tune.

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