Thursday on 14 July, the California Child Welfare Digital Service team held their latest leadership update here is what the team has achieved over the last seven months.

Late last year, California’s Department for Social Services (CDSS) and Office of Systems Integration (OSI), with the support of agencies and departments like Health and Human Services, GovOps and state technology, took the courageous step forward of moving from a traditional waterfall government technology procurement to a modular, agile and user-centered approach. This approach – used successfully in the private sector and at the federal government level with organizations like the United States Digital service and 18F – promises to deliver better technology that meets the needs of users quickly and frequently.

Instead of a monolithic, complicated procurement worth hundreds of millions of dollars, serviceable only by a small number of system integrators, the request for proposal was broken up into much smaller modules. The requests for proposal for those two modules – an Application Programming Interface (API) module, and an Intake module, were published in December.

Since then:

  • Taborda Solutions has been chosen for the API module, and work has already started. Taborda is working with IBM, the operator of CWS/CMS, the existing mainframe-based Child Welfare Service. The team is working to 2-week sprints, and is working toward an alpha sometime this fall followed by a beta in the winter of 16/17.
  • The selection process for the second module, Intake, is in progress. In our next update, we should be able to share the selected vendor.
  • As part of planning the Intake service. Butte, Fresno, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Ventura and Yolo counties have been chosen as core counties to represent users of the whole Intake system during development. The team was excited to share that there’s been a groundswell of support from caseworkers and social workers in the counties. These core counties are a good mix of urban and rural, decentralized and centralized, and are each contributing a full-time social worker to be part of the Intake scrum team.

The big news though is around the new agile development pre-qualified (ADPQ) vendor pool that has been set up. The pool included a new technical and user-centered screening process, with the technical process based upon the agile blanket purchase agreement (BPA) model established by our friends at 18F.

The technical and user-centered screening is a big move forward for the state. It means that the state is now screening vendors by asking them to demonstrate their capability in modern software development practices. To take part, vendors needed to use a California Health and Human Services API to access data to meet a user need. This meant providing access to a working prototype, working source code on github and a description of their approach.

One of the things that the California team added to the process was a user-centered screening process. To do this, real users were recruited and asked to complete tasks using the prototypes. This extra screening process helped weed out submissions that were technically capable, but didn’t demonstrate the capability to produce user-centered, usable software.

The new pool uses a new contracting process that will make bringing on qualified vendors much faster. The procurement process for the API and Intake modules, using a traditional request for proposal (RFP) process took about 6-7 months. Faster than usual thanks to the hard work of many teams, but not as fast as we’d like. The request for offer (RFO) process for this new pool should shorten the time between publishing the request and contract execution to about two months.

The Child Welfare Digital Services Team will be using the agile pool and RFO process for their next service, the Certification Approval and Licensing Service.

The vendors who made it into the pool are:

These improvements in procuring development services aren’t just for the team working on child welfare. The state plans to refresh the pool every six months, and will make it available to all California Health and Human Services departments, and plans are being made to make the pool available statewide, to all agencies and departments.