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Challenge-Based Procurement Accelerates Coronavirus-Related Acquisitions for California

Success Stories
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December 21, 2020

The initial COVID-19 outbreak put enormous stress on the people, processes, and technology systems that the State of California relies on to deliver services to its 40M residents. As a result, expectations changed dramatically for the public servants who work at the California Department of Technology (CDT). Not only were they responsible for stabilizing fundamental technology systems that run the State, but they needed to deliver new services to the public with speed and agility. 

City Innovate’s ongoing work with the CDT and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has streamlined the state’s technology project review and approval process, paying vital lifesaving dividends in response to the current pandemic. Recognizing those dividends, the Governor’s office moved quickly to extend and formalize the process to provide quick funding to state departments looking to invest in technology modernization efforts or stabilize IT systems at risk of failure.

From Waterfall to Challenge-Based

Historically government agencies across the country have utilized a waterfall approach to project management, consisting of linear sequential stages or phases. This approach creates the potential for project delays as all of a stage’s requirements need to be met before moving forward. A typical acquisition can take up to 18+ months with this approach. 

City Innovate’s partnership with the CDT began by training executive staff on the challenge-based approach to project management, which consists of short iterative sprints. When applied to the acquisition process, this transition in project management methodology begets Challenge Based Procurements (CBP), which has unlocked the agency’s ability to deliver quick quality solutions to the State's immediate technology needs. 

The CDT and the CDPH, in partnership with City Innovate, utilized a challenge-based approach along with City Innovate’s suite of enterprise applications in the acquisition of the California COVID-19 Reporting System (CCRS) and COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution (CalVAX), which provided accurate predictive data modeling and expanded access to vaccines and other coronavirus-related services. The CDPH acquired these new services in under four months providing the critical technology infrastructure needed to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

What We’ve Learned

We pride ourselves in providing solutions that help the California Department of Technology improve California’s technology acquisition process. Here are a few things we’ve learned that agencies across the country might find helpful.

  • Create a team that encompasses the various perspectives of a project's end-users.
  • Create a well-defined problem statement that thoughtfully and holistically considers the needs of a population.
  • It shouldn’t take months or years to learn about the solutions available. We’ve proven that whether it’s a Software as a Service (SaaS), Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS), or Modified-off-the-shelf (MOTS) solution, we can find it in a matter of days and develop a resounding justification for procurements that will fulfill the needs of government. 
  • Replacing general-purpose legacy systems (Word, Excel, etc.) to streamline solution scoping, provide greater visibility, and easier collaboration.

Learn more about our ongoing work with the California Department of Technology and how they're utilizing our Business/Stakeholder Analysis module to accelerate the surfacing and approval of state departments’ or entities’ business challenges.

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