Analysis: Which Big State IT Project in California Will Next Switch to Agile?

Do agile development principles have a place in upcoming state IT projects?

by / October 28, 2016

Which of California's major state IT projects will be the next to use agile development principles as part of a revamped approach?

Although no official announcements have yet been made, there are indications that one candidate could be California's $458 million Medicaid Management Information System (CA-MMIS). Here are a few signs that point to agile being a possible path forward:

  • The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), according to state records, recently sought to hire a technical writer with familiarity in agile and SCRUM to write the procurement documents for the new CA-MMIS contracts that will subsequently restart the project. (Earlier this year, California and system integrator Xerox agreed in a formal settlement to stop CA-MMIS development and replacement, and DHCS said it would start over.)
  • Choosing to move ahead with agile wouldn't be too surprising in this case, given that in 2014 the DHCS-Xerox team began using some agile and sprint techniques in an attempt to retool the CA-MMIS project. One of the people who came aboard at that time was Peter Kelly, then-chief of the CA-MMIS Project Management Office. Kelly soon after moved on to lead the state's Child Welfare Digital Services organization, which has become well known as it's beginning to use agile end-to-end in modernizing the state's child welfare information system; some have called it the big demonstration project for agile in California state government.
  • It also appears California will use a modular procurement approach for CA-MMIS, which could align well with an agile development methodology. According to recent state records, "pursuant to recent decisions and directives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, DHCS has determined that the processes included in the current FI contract" — referring to the canceled fiscal intermediary contract with Xerox — are to be separated into multiple separate contracts — or “modules.” These modules will consist of one or more for the Business Operations components; one or more for the Information Technology (IT) System Maintenance and Operations components; and one or more for the Replacement System Design, Development, and Implementation components."
  • The CA-MMIS project appears to be moving forward again. According to information provided to TechWire, DHCS plans to release a "lessons learned" document in November about the suspended CA-MMIS project. A new overarching Project Status Report (PSR) planning document also is in development.

This article was originally published on Techwire.

Matt Williams Contributing Writer

Matt Williams was previously the news editor of Govtech.com, and is now a contributor to Government Technology and Public CIO magazines. He also previously served as the managing editor of TechWire, a sister publication to Government Technology.2