How to Choose and Implement Software in a Government Entity

Implementing software in a government entity can be difficult. In fact, a 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that “…federal IT projects too frequently incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes.”

How do you choose and implement software in a government entity?  Here’s an overview of five steps you can take to more successfully choose, implement, and improve the software in your public organization.

Determine an Owner

The football coach with the most wins in college football history, John Gagliardi, once said: “Committees are for the unwilling doing the unnecessary for the unfit.” Accountability is the key to getting work done. So you must determine an owner for a software implementation project. When everyone has accountability, no one has accountability.

Committees can provide input. However, someone with a strong vision and the ability to communicate and influence need to take that input and turn it into action. The first step when implementing software in a government organization is to select someone who will own the project.

Takeaway: Determine an internal owner for the software selection and implementation processes.

Identify Desired State

In the beginning, you need to start with the end in mind. Map out what you would like your process to look like with the new software in place and the features you’ll need. If you’re replacing a legacy system, identify:

  • What works in the legacy system that’s required in the new solution
  • Gaps in the existing solution
  • Extraneous features you don’t need

To do this, you’ll want to canvas everyone who touches the product and get their feedback about what they like and don’t like about the existing solution. An example: When states like Pennsylvania and New Mexico recently transitioned to state-based health insurance exchanges, they involved all stakeholders in that process. They not only talked to internal state resources but also carriers and brokers. They wanted to ensure that existing carrier and broker functionality transitioned to their new state-based exchanges.

Takeaway: Involve all stakeholders when determining what your desired state will be, including end-users and partners.

Identify Gaps Between Desired State and Available Solutions

Once you’ve mapped the desired state, the next step is to identify gaps between your desired state and available products. Generally, that’s going to involve either a detailed RFI or RFP document that outlines the features of the desired state and asks the software vendor whether the feature is supported.

When choosing a software solution, you don’t always want to choose the solution with the fewest gaps. The severity of the gaps is more important. For example, our software has a cash payment option that competitors don’t offer. If a state evaluated our software to use in a Medicaid Section 1115 waiver which leveraged small premium amounts to low-income individuals, they’d want to include a cash payment to decrease delinquency rates. If that feature – building a retail payment network that enables cash payments – is a two-year project and it’s vitally important to achieving your goals, a solution missing that functionality should finish further down on your list of solutions.

Takeaway: Once you’ve identified gaps in available products, rank those gaps based on their priority and development effort.

Execute the Implementation

A successful implementation starts with a detailed plan and ends with robust communication. A typical implementation will leverage the following steps:

  1. Requirements Gathering
  2. Best Practices and Standards Development
  3. Integration Strategy
  4. Configuration and Development
  5. Training Documentation
  6. End-to-End Testing
  7. Training End Users
  8. Go Live

One of the most important traits you should seek in a project owner is the ability to communicate with all stakeholders. A detailed implementation plan with timelines and status updates should be delivered to stakeholders throughout the implementation process.

Takeaway: Create a detailed implementation plan and communicate, communicate, communicate to ensure a successful implementation.

Practice Continual Improvement

Once the software is successfully implemented, the process doesn’t end. Invest in a continuous learning cycle where you solicit feedback from end-users, prioritize bug fixes, and new development with the vendor to deliver a consistently improved product. Generally, this occurs with an agile development methodology that prioritizes incremental improvements, regular retrospectives on what’s working and what isn’t, and regular prioritization sessions that help you focus on the most pressing needs.

It’s also important to create a set of metrics that help you determine how the software is improving performance or helping to achieve goals. Metrics will help you understand the impact the software is having on your organization and reinforce why you’ve chosen to implement software.

Takeaway: You’re not done once the software has been implemented. Practice continual improvement to create a better solution over time.

Certifi helps private and public health insurance exchanges improve enrollment and build a better member experience with health insurance exchange consolidated billing and payment solutions.

 

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