Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: IT Modernization

When is Project Management not Project Management?

Continuous Improvement, Corporate Training, Design Sprints, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, Learning, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Training, UX / UI

By Tammy Debord, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CDAP, SAFe Agilist & Scrum Master, CSM

Luckily, this isn’t a trick question. Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s more of an art than a science.”? This holds true for many different endeavors in life and business, including Project Management.

The Way we Approach Problems is Changing

As a Project Management Professional (PMP)® for over 12 years, here is what I’ve learned—think of it as two different buckets of knowledge.

Let’s call Bucket A: “The Science.” This may include:

  1. Project Management Certifications (PMP, CSM, SSM)
  2. Project Management Frameworks (PMI, SAFe, Disciplined Agile, FLEX)
  3. Project Management Process and Artifacts (Project Charters, Agile Release Trains, Six Sigma Flow Chart)

Bucket B: “The Art” includes things like:

  1. Building psychological safety
  2. Driving innovation
  3. Empowering self-organizing teams to deliver valuable solutions

While the science is absolutely needed, without the art, we have to ask: Would we still consider it a successful endeavor?

I have witnessed a shift from only defining success through costs, dates, and deliverables to instead broadening the definition to include delighting our customers, building a high-performing team culture, and criteria that includes more items from Bucket B.

Design Sprints to the Rescue

Intrigued by this shift and how it relates to my work as consultant, I recently signed up for a Masterclass by Jake Knapp called The Design Sprint.

Design Sprints, born out of Google Ventures, is now practiced across the globe as a proven method for problem-solving and launching innovative solutions.

A Design Sprint traditionally runs four to five full consecutive days with a set number of team members who are pulled together to focus on a core problem. The structure follows the path of Design Thinking, which includes: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

At its core, Design Thinking is user-centered and focuses on rapid learning based on human interactions driven through a tailored process that drives to solutions.

5 Design Sprint Tips

  1. Show, don’t tell. Facilitators encourage visuals like sketches, prototypes, and dot-voting over traditional meetings where participants typically just talk about ideas. Having a dialogue using an interactive medium helps to eliminate assumptions when people only describe what they mean.
  2. Put people first. People oftentimes drive your greatest outcomes or are your biggest barriers. Projects are not inanimate things to manage.
  3. Frame and re-frame. How you frame a problem allows you to find the right challenge to tackle. “How might we…?” problem statements allow participants to try many different lenses to a particular challenge.
  4. Embrace ambiguity. Sometimes situations won’t be clear and your cheese will be moved—when that happens, stay the course and push through with your team.
  5. Context matters. Whether you are in a new organization or another country, every ecosystem has their own culture, language, and norms to which you should recalibrate.

While I did earn a certification to add to my collection (think Bucket A: The Science), what I take with me is that the “art” of running a successful Design Sprint is the same “art” as running a successful project.

It takes a different part of the skills in your toolbox to master both—the best consultants I know have the best toolbox to pull from.

Put Your Skills into Action

A couple of ideas from the Masterclass that I have been able to use immediately in my current higher education consulting work are:

  1. Re-framing the problem
  2. Understanding context

For example, when developing an application, it is easy to believe the end goal is simply ‘completed functionality.’

By reframing the problem with the user in mind, i.e., “How might we ensure a student is able to combine and transfer their units online between campuses?”, we ensure that what is developed meets the needs of a solution beyond working code.

This could mean ensuring the underlying data needs to be revisited or that a mobile-first user experience better serves the population using the application.

By understanding context, we may discover we need to know more about the upstream or downstream applications that units are coming from or feed into so that the student has a tool that can meet their needs.

By reframing the problem and understanding context, we refocus using an empathetic lens through a technology solution.

These are just a few ways I’ve started using Design Sprint concepts in my work—do you use the Design Sprints or Design Thinking concepts? Let us know some success stories or problem areas—maybe we can help!

About the Author: Tammy Debord, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CDAP, SAFe Agilist, SAFe Scrum Master, CSM started her career in gaming at Sony PlayStation and has worked in several fields including Solar, Higher Education, and Finance in Silicon Valley. Currently she is an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, working with a public sector higher education client. While not collecting letters behind her name as part of her love of life-long learning, she enjoys watching boxing and following the Marvel Universe of films.

California Digital Government Summit recap

Agile, Conferences, Digital Transformation, Event Recap, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Product Management, Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Waterfall


Photo credit: Techwire

By Dave G. Cornejo, MBA, CSM

For over 30 years, Sacramento has been home to some of the largest and most-anticipated government technology conferences on the west coast. This year’s Digital Government Summit was no exception.

About the Event

Hosted by Government Technology/e.Republic, the summit included key state and local government executives, technologists, and industry specialists to address the most important policy, management, and technology issues surrounding the future of digital government in the State.

This year’s event included an impressive line-up of guest speakers like Governor Newsom’s Advisor on Innovation and Digital Services, as well as representatives from the Department of Technology, the Government Operations Agency, and more.

Key Takeaways

Some of the most interesting topics from the breakout sessions included:

  • Re-inventing Customer Services
  • AI (machine learning and predictive analytics)
  • Census 2020
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Design Thinking in Action (putting focus on people when designing new services and products)

The overall theme for this year’s summit was on customer-centered technology, so it was not surprising that a large crowd gathered to hear the latest chapter on the Governor’s plan for the Office of Digital Innovation (ODI).

Governor’s Goals

Summit attendees learned that Governor Newsom wants the State to be more innovative on how it interacts with clients. He believes government is not focused on customers like private industry and he wants that to change.

Some of ODI’s innovation goals include the following:

  1. Encouraging agile and modular approaches to project management, rather than “waterfall” models.
  2. Bridging silos, not blowing them up.
  3. Developing talent, creating a community, and investing efforts in a culture change.

Final Thoughts

Working for a private sector consulting firm that supports many state public sector agencies to digitally transform, it was encouraging to hear the innovation-focused message from the Governor’s office and other guest speakers and summit attendees—and to know that we are on the same page when it comes to using technology to better serve Californians.

About the author

Dave G. Cornejo is a retired State executive having served as an Assistant Executive Director over Administration and Information Technology, Chief Financial Officer, and a Fiscal Division Chief. In these capacities, Dave successfully oversaw the implementation of multi-million-dollar technology projects. Dave has also taught Computer Information Science and Business courses as an Adjunct Professor with the Los Rios Community College District and served as a loaned executive to the California Performance Review team. Dave currently serves as a Financial Analyst for one of our public sector health care clients.

Chunking up the Juggernaut (aka: Scrum in a Government Setting)

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, Government, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAIP Academy, Learning, Professional Development, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Scrum, Technology, Training, Workforce Development

By Todd Wallace, PMP, CSM

Agile methodologies.
Scrum projects.
Continuous and rapid improvement.

These are all phrases you would expect to hear in a Silicon Valley startup, while attending a morning huddle in a shared space office.

You would not expect to hear these phrases while attending a quarterly all staff meeting in “the large conference room on the 6th floor” at a government office.

However, times are changing, and the way work is being done is changing with those times.

What was once a radical new way to manage projects, or “work efforts,” is now seen as a reasonable, efficient, effective, and adoptable methodology to bring into new areas, such as state government.

As opposed to the historically applied Waterfall method to manage projects in state government, using an Agile method allows for earlier customer feedback and course correction.

This helps increase the chances that your project meets the customer’s needs and isn’t outdated before it’s even completed.

While a juggernaut such as a government agency may not be able to pivot as quickly as a small startup, there are still very real gains that a government agency can realize through adopting Scrum into their day-to-day operations.

With the support and understanding from leadership, a group within a government agency can form into a Scrum team, with a Product Owner, a Scrum Master, and a working group.

By breaking up the work that needs to be done into correctly written user stories and a backlog maintained by the Product Owner, the team can accomplish recognizable progress every two weeks.

While Agile was originally created for software development and rapid releases of code, achieving success with Scrum doesn’t rely on being in a software development group.

Notice that that previous paragraph said nothing about technology or software.

Scrum can be applied to any work effort, from process improvement efforts, to reconfiguring the physical assets of a floorplan.

The overarching goal of Scrum is to “chunk up the work,” or break the work down into tasks that can be completed in a timely manner, with value added at their completion.

Scrum projects may seem like tech world jargon, but there is real value in knowing how to manage Scrum efforts within the government sector and there is a real push for government agencies to adopt Scrum in daily operations.

If you work in a government setting, either as a government employee or a contractor, Scrum is a very real change coming to you soon.

If you want to be ahead of the 8-ball and able to walk the walk when your department’s leadership implements Scrum methods, the Certified ScrumMaster course, offered by KAIP Academy, will teach you everything you need to know to get up to speed. You’ll be able to confidently raise your hand in a “fist to 5” saying that you can coach the team to succeed with Scrum!

About the Author: Todd Wallace is a Senior Project Manager with KAI Partners, Inc. He started his professional career as a student assistant in the special projects department of a state agency and worked as a state employee for over 7 years before transitioning to private sector and consulting to state agencies. He has a BS from CSU, Sacramento in Small Business Operations and an MBA from UC, Davis in Entrepreneurship and Strategy. In his free time, Todd loves tinkering on cars and motorcycles and has a passion for innovation.

Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference 2019

Conferences, Digital Transformation, Event Recap, Government, Healthcare, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference 2019, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Public Sector, Technology

KAI Partners was thrilled to attend the Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference (MESC) last week in Chicago. MESC is an annual event bringing together public sector and private sector Medicaid leaders and partners to discuss issues around national Medicaid programs and systems.

A primary focus at MESC is claims management by Medicaid Management Information Systems (MMIS), provider management, and benefits eligibility management.

MESC is a critical meeting point for thoughtful dialogue, workshops, and demonstrations of new technologies. Over the course of three days, the KAI Partners team participated in several informational sessions, attended workshops, and had discussions on the trade show floor with new contacts and potential partners.

The conference provided insight into the various issues confronting systems across the nation and a valuable opportunity for us to share our knowledge working with MMIS technology, data warehousing, analytics, and business intelligence.

The themes of this year’s event centered primarily around the following:

  1. Health Care Innovation
  2. Medicaid Innovation
  3. Operations and Compliance
  4. Procurement and Contracting
  5. Interoperability
  6. Data and Analytics

These themes appeared throughout MESC sessions, where topics included the role of AI, Robotic Process Automation, Program Integrity, Modularity, Data Analytics, Organizational Change Management, Modernization, Outcomes-based approach to successful Medicaid system programs, and more.

From discussions at MESC, as well as our work here in California, we know the goals are to develop Medicaid solutions that are qualitative, supported by relevant technology, and that meet the needs of those who rely on these critical medical services.

One discussion centered around outcomes and encouraged technology vendors to be more active in pushing their technology further to achieve the desired outcomes—and to not be content with checking boxes on contract requirements.

Technology vendors were encouraged to engage in greater depth in understanding the limitations of the proposed system and to work with their public sector partners to achieve results that will have a meaningful impact on the populations served.

We were very encouraged by the session themes and with our discussions during the conference—they play to our company strengths and support our goal to serve a greater segment of the Medicaid enterprise. We look forward to pursuing opportunities that provide excellence in health care consulting and helping Medicaid departments achieve the programs and member outcomes for which they strive!

Attending MESC on behalf of KAI Partners this year were:

Ryan Hatcher: Ryan Hatcher is a skilled communications and management consultant with over a decade of experience campaigning for government, public affairs, and political clients. Ryan serves as an executive consultant providing communications support to one of California’s heath care agencies. He resides in Sacramento with his wife, Nikki, and their two dogs; in his spare time, Ryan enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and tinkering/building things in his garage.

Alexis Kalman: A graduate from UC Davis, Alexis spent over 10 years working with State Medicaid and other health and human service departments to develop, implement, and operate analytic warehouses and decision support systems. In her current role with KAI Partners, Alexis works as a technical project manager for a statewide education agency. Alexis is a board member at the YMCA of Superior California representing the Yolo YMCA. She also participates in both Boy and Girl Scouts with both of her children.

Lucie-Anne Radimsky: Lucie-Anne has over 15 years’ experience in communications and business development in the U.S. and Europe. She has represented clients within the technology, energy, and telecommunications sectors to government agencies, press, and industry analysts throughout the world. Lucie-Anne is an active community volunteer and has served on numerous non-profit boards and led alumni groups in Paris, Washington D.C., and San Francisco. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Irvine. She resides in Sacramento with her Brazilian husband and two boys.

How to Hack into an IT Career (No hacker skills required!)

Cloud Computing, Corporate Training, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Government, Information Security, Information Technology, Innovation, Innovation in the Public Sector, IT Modernization, IT Security, KAI Partners, Professional Development, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Public Sector, Sacramento, Technology, Workforce Development

By Jamal Hartenstein, JD, CISSP, CGEIT, PMP

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of civil servants through the organization, NxtGov. NxtGov is a professional network for people working in California public service, and those who are interested in public service. According to NxtGov, “We want to develop this network into a platform for collaboration across government and other sectors to develop innovative ideas to improve government service and restore trust and pride in public service.”

To achieve their mission, NxtGov promotes training and advancement of current government workers and actively recruits new talent. NxtGov adds value with opportunities on how to find and apply to government positions and training on how to sharpen skills to promote within.

My discussion focused on improving understanding of the Information Technology workforce within the public sector, including information on the different certifications and skills-building that might be beneficial. With so many public sector agencies undertaking large system replacements and other innovation projects, skilled IT professionals are needed now more than ever. And, IT professionals with different backgrounds—like project management and change management—are just as much in demand.

Interested in learning more? Here are some Q&A on IT certifications and professional development:

  1. Do I need an IT certification? Considering all the letters behind my name, I definitely think certifications are valuable! Plus, certifications are often mandatory checkboxes when applying for government positions. Even if it’s not mandatory, a certification can indicate to employers your interest in and dedication to a particular industry. A certification can also validate years of experience and capability.
  2. Which certification do I need? First you need to determine which certification is most valuable to you and your goals. A certification is only as strong as the certificate authority and how you use your credential. Remember that earning a certification often allows you to gain access to and participate in a new online community with membership by the certification authority. Resources will become available that otherwise were not offered, which only aids in your continued development.
  3. Is a PMP® an IT certification? Short answer: Yes! Many of us have been involved in IT project management, but just didn’t know it. A PMP® credential is a valuable IT certification and as of July 2019, there are nearly 900 open project management jobs in the Sacramento region. (Bonus: The average IT Project Manager position pays upwards of $95K annually).

The future of IT in the public sector is great and growing. Whether it’s through cloud migrations, third party software replacements, or an innovation we haven’t even thought of yet, now is the time to start taking your professional development up a notch. For a sustainable IT career, you should keep up with new certification and training and make sure you don’t stay stagnant in a position that isn’t growing along with the speed of technology.

How are you navigating the IT changes in the public sector? Be sure to check out NxtGov to learn more about the important work they’re doing to help improve government services.

About the Author: IT Security Program Manager at KAI Partners, Jamal Hartenstein is a cybersecurity legal expert who has helped some of the country’s largest financial institutions, healthcare companies, and federal agencies develop their IT Security Roadmap programs. In his current role, Jamal provides guidance to executive staff and security professionals on laws, frameworks, and policies that help shape their strategic plan, and helps organizations innovate safely and securely. Prior to working for KAI Partners, Jamal served as an Electronic Warfare Sergeant in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps, where he was a steward for Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) framework. He earned his undergraduate degree from Georgia Military College and his Juris Doctorate from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in California.

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