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Cloud Empowers Colorado to Better Serve Citizens

This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, Mapping Government’s Journey to the Cloud: 8 Success Stories. The guide includes interviews with federal, state and local officials who have overcome common barriers to cloud adoption, including procurement and security. Download the full guide here to get their insights and tips for success. 

Colorado’s Chief Technology Officer David McCurdy isn’t alone in his quest to make the state a leader in delivering cloud services. But McCurdy doesn’t want that designation just for the sake of it.

“We want to be driving better customer outcomes and better citizen outcomes,” he said. “Colorado takes pride that we’re bringing the best in cloud business to our citizens.”

To achieve that goal, McCurdy focused the state’s cloud strategy around a specific understanding of the five core principles of cloud services. For a service to be cloud technology, it must enable on-demand self-service; have broad network access, meaning you can access it across the network from any location on a variety of devices; provide resource pooling to serve multiple consumers; enable rapid elasticity, or the ability to quickly or even automatically adjust capabilities to meet increasing or decreasing user demands; and it must be a measured service, the transparent monitoring of resource usage and directly tying that to payment.

By using this specific language in requests for proposals, the state ensures that the vendors it uses provide the outcomes its agencies want and need. Cloud must empower them to better serve citizens.

Colorado’s Benefits Management System is an award-winning example of how cloud services is improving the citizen experience. The system’s cloud-based customer portal, Program Eligibility and Application Kit (PEAK), allows citizens to determine their state benefits eligibility. Previously, the process entailed corresponding with individual state agencies and could take more than 45 days. Now, citizens can use the cloud-based portal to see if they are eligible for a service such as Medicaid within 45 minutes.
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“We created a platform that the citizens could interact with directly,” said William Chumley, the state’s Chief Customer Officer. “They’re able to walk through this process without a back and forth that was happening before, either through correspondence, or through going into local offices or making phone calls.”

There are more drop-down menus for users to easily enter information.

“It allows them to get directly to the point much quicker, and because we capture the information once and apply it multiple times, now the citizen doesn’t have to re-enter that data over and over and over to apply for additional benefits,” Chumley said.

The front-end portal that citizens use is hosted in the cloud, and some of the data is as well, McCurdy said. But the state is looking to migrate the backend system to the cloud because his internal customers want the benefits of a flexible IT architecture that supports innovative solutions and measured services.

Another PEAK feature is the universal application. Citizens who apply for Medicaid are often eligible for other state services, especially early childhood services. When people apply for Medicaid, they can find out immediately if they qualify for early childhood benefits, such as daycare. Through this service, the portal promotes greater awareness of state programs and an easier application process.

Hosting PEAK in the cloud offers other benefits. For example, if citizens find that they are not eligible for Medicaid, the portal connects them to the state’s health exchange. In addition, the scalability of cloud services allows PEAK to handle massive workloads. With the implementation of real-time eligibility, counties handled 60,000 applications, twice their usual load, without a staff increase.

Chumley noted that PEAK is also unique in Colorado for its use of the agile development process. The user experience was placed at the front end of the planning process, and implementation included more than 50,000 hours of testing to ensure that the product was usable. The partnership between the Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the agency customers helped create a more effective and user-friendly product that continues to evolve.

OIT’s tagline is “Serving people, serving Colorado.” Chumley connected OIT’s work with the citizen experience, noting, “We, as a government, are trying to be more efficient and offer more elegant solutions for agencies to achieve those five cloud outcomes. Ultimately, that saves the citizen money and delivers a better service to the citizen. That’s really how the whole thing goes together.”

All photos licensed for use under Creative Commons 2.0.
Photo credit: Steven Bratman

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