Perspectives from Partners: IT Solutions Management for Human Services (ISM)

By Yejin Jang posted Aug 24,2017 02:32 PM


This month, we interviewed Kristen Duus, President of IT Solutions Management (ISM), an affiliate of the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and Chief Information Officer of Oregon's Department of Human Services and the Oregon Health Authority. We asked her about the use of agile methodologies and cybersecurity. 

Q: What is your role in the state?

A: I lead the technology office for Oregon's two largest state agencies: the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Department of Human Services (DHS). We are a shared services entity that provides the technology needs for both agencies.  DHS programs include vocational rehabilitation, seniors and people with disabilities, intellectual and developmental disabilities, self-sufficiency, and child welfare. OHA programs include public health, Medicaid, and the state hospital.

Q: Please tell us about ISM members.

A: ISM is the technology affiliate of the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA).  ISM is the largest APHSA affiliate, and we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this year.

ISM's members are primarily Health and Human Services (HHS) professionals from federal, state and local governments from the U.S. and its territories, Canada and other countries, and the private sector. Although we are the technology affiliate, we focus a lot on the intersection of business and technology, and at our annual conference we are seeing increasing numbers of business side thought leaders (CEOs, CFOs, program managers) who come to hear about the business success that is possible with creative use of technology.

Q: What are ISM members talking about these days?

A: Certainly, security, privacy and cybersecurity. There is a heightened awareness and a focus for all of us in the technology world on protecting our systems, our data and our clients.

In the Health and Human Services technology arena, there are many conversations and projects related to integrating eligibility and interoperability. How do we reuse technologies we already have? And how do we provide holistic services to the people we serve? The other side of the conversation is about data. How do we make our human service program data available to our business partners? How do we ensure the integrity of data? How can data be used in predictive analytics? These are big topics right now.

Q: Cyber is also #1 priority for state CIOs, what do ISM members think specifically about cybersecurity? 

A: Cybersecurity is a clear challenge.  Health and Human Services systems store all protected classes of sensitive data: criminal justice information protected by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS), federal tax information (FTI), HIPAA-protected personal health information (PHI), and personally-identifiable information (PII). State government often has the additional challenge of dealing with very old technology and legacy applications.  This adds a level of complexity to keeping data and systems secure.

Q: NASCIO will soon be releasing a study on the use of agile in state government. What are ISM members' views on agile? Are they using agile? Are they interested in agile?

A: Yes, members are very interested in agile and many use it already.   In fact, the October ISM conference will feature an entire track on succeeding with agile.

Agile software development techniques have been available for some time, but are getting renewed attention as state and local government organizations take advantage of its benefits.  Many states are using agile with great success, but there are also some challenges that must be overcome.  Agile requires a different project approach - how do you write contracts that hold vendors accountable throughout the lifecycle and schedule of deliverables? How do you prioritize modules?  How do you align business and technology staff around common objectives? It’s certainly an approach our members are talking about.  The October conference will feature several examples of state successes with agile, as well as sessions on how to start using it.  

Q: The ISM conference is coming up in October. What are some of the items there that you want to highlight?

A: We have some great sessions shaping up on the agenda!  In addition to the agile track, other tracks will focus on “innovative practices”, “foreseeing the future”, “thinking outside the box”, “building partnerships”, and “analytics in action”. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from a panel of federal leaders, and have the opportunity to meet with federal partners one-on-one.  And, I’m always excited about the opportunities for ISM members to network and talk about what’s working, what’s not, how we can learn from each other, and how to leverage our successes.

Q: What would your members like for state CIOs to know?

A: A strong partnership between agencies and the state CIO’s office is essential.  State IT shops are dealing with many of the same challenges – aging technology and legacy applications, security concerns, and retaining skilled IT staff, to name a few.

We must take an enterprise approach to the problems we face.  State CIO’s can support agencies by leading enterprise strategies in architecture, procurement, and integration. 

True innovation is possible if we all work together towards a common vision. By implementing solutions such as common citizen identifiers and portals, states can increase and simplify our customers’ access to services and improve the value we provide to the communities we serve.   

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