Familiar face chosen to be interim director for Colo. benefits management system

Earlier this month, CivSource reported that Colorado’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) was looking for an interim director for the state’s assistance benefits computer system. They’ve chosen an interim director, and according to OIT Deputy State Chief Information Officer John Conley, things are off to quick start.

“We really like the progress we’re seeing,” Mr. Conley said in an interview last week. Although the new interim director has been on staff for about three weeks, he’s got more experience with the Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS) than most.

William Browning, founder of Denver-based Rebound Solutions, was hired for the position and he has worked with OIT before. In January of this year, Mr. Browning assisted the transition of CBMS from EDS, the incumbent vendor, to Deloitte Consulting, who currently holds the system’s contract. Mr. Browning has also worked on the communication strategy for the Colorado Crime Information System (CCIS) implementation. And according to his website, Mr. Browning was responsible for producing the business case for the recent Colorado IT consolidation.

“Mr. Browning brings a level of understanding and continuity. Rather than having to spend weeks of ‘get up to speed’ time,” Mr. Conley said.

“Right now, we’re working to develop a strategic roadmap with dates for system improvements,” said Mr. Conley. “For example, in July of this year we’ll be undertaking a data cleansing process, looking at all the screens [data fields] the end-user has to go through. We want to reduce those screens methodically and deliberately to make the process easier for the end user.”

Mr. Browning will also help to align internal team oriented towards meeting goals, rather than being organized strictly by functionality. “He’s doing away with the silos fashion of service delivery. We’re looking holistically at an internal team and matrix management approach.”

Within the next thirty days, Mr. Conley said, end users will start to see incremental improvements throughout CBMS. But the big change will come in March 2010, when OIT launches a self-service web portal. The portal will have a “host of new functionality, for individuals and groups working with the system. All sixty-four counties will have the same access, regardless of size or population,” which currently dictates much of how the system works currently. “Technicians who are filling out screens will see the same system and the same screen no matter which county they work in,” according to Mr. Conley.

In addition to hiring Mr. Browning to assist in this structural and strategic reorganization, OIT has sought input from Colorado Counties Inc., a trade association for counties in Colorado, as well as officials from the Colorado Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and other stake holders. OIT discussed user changes and sought input from these organizations on user experience and information they’d like to see when using data fields. “The system will be configurable – every county will have the same template, but we wanted to get an idea of what will streamline processes,” Mr. Conley said.

The CBMS contract lead, Deloitte Consulting will develop and deploy the Web portal. Deloitte performed similar work for New York’s myBenefits and Wisconsin’s ACCESS websites, which should be of benefit for the state, Mr. Conley says. “We are not developing from scratch. We’re leveraging their knowledge base and designs that are already in the works and configuring them for the state of Colorado.”

Mr. Browning has another five to nine weeks left as interim director, but in that time, he’ll have one more challenge to address: choose his successor during a difficult economic time. The state has a $348 million budget shortfall, so there is a possibility the position may not be filled right away, Mr. Conley said, but he has no indication that is the case.

“Right now we’re focused and we look forward to where things are going. We think they are trending in the right direction.”

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