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Better ways to build safety nets

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David Hansell, leader of KPMG’s Health and Human Services Center of Excellence, writes in Governing magazine about the benefits and challenges to a “modular” ¬†and thus agile approach to modernizing health and human-services technology. Among his remarks:

“States are increasingly looking to build new technology with development processes that have become well established and proven in the commercial world. As they seek to evolve their modernization projects from a traditional, monolithic approach to a more flexible one, there is much to be learned from recent projects about potential benefits and challenges.

“The traditional ‘big bang’ approach is increasingly seen as high-risk and as too slow and cumbersome to deliver optimal results. One benefit of the modular approach is that it breaks down large and complex projects into smaller increments, making the overall effort more manageable. Take, for example, the experience of Texas’s Department of Family and Protective Services. In modernizing its child welfare case-management system, the agency initiated component projects when funding was secured, requirements were well established and the organization was ready. It was a successful and cost-effective strategy.

”Another benefit is that adopting a modular approach allows public-sector agencies to utilize techniques that have worked well in the private sector, including iterative development, rapid sprint cycles and continuous, user-tested adjustments. And breaking large systems down into separate capabilities gives agencies the flexibility to select the most qualified contractor for each module.

”But while the benefits are clear, so are the challenges. While regular component-product rollouts and upgrades are facilitated, it is essential that all phases of a project ultimately merge into a singular functioning system. {The difficult task of} establishing an overarching vision of what the final product is intended to do is a critical aspect of modular modernization….”

To read the piece, please hit this link.

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