Colorado is almost done migrating its huge benefits management system

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Colorado is about two months away from completing work on a benefits eligibility system the state has been trying to build since 2004, a state official announced at a conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on Monday.

Development of the Colorado Benefits Management System, or CBMS, changed tracks in 2017 as the state hired Deloitte to begin rewriting the system’s code and migrating services to Salesforce and Amazon Web Services. The change came after more than a decade of troubled development and tens of millions of dollars in improper payments.

But state Chief Technology Officer David McCurdy told an audience at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ midyear conference that the system has been redesigned with a new architecture that won’t require as much maintenance to keep up with new developments in information technology and should serve well the individuals, state agencies and local governments that administer benefits.

“We were spending way too much time going through this Java, COBOL, converting code, rewriting it four, five, six times,” McCurdy said.

When it set out rewriting code for the system two years ago, McCurdy said the state first prioritized the areas of the software that would benefit most. There are as many as 200 projects annually related to CBMS, he said.

“Where do we want to put our money, what is strategic for us?” he said. “For me it was about outcomes. How can we cut the development cycle down so we can deliver more products, more services to the citizens of Colorado?”

McCurdy said the development cycle was cut down thanks in part to a rewrite of the system’s codebase, which was slashed from 5.4 million lines of code to roughly 670,000.

McCurdy said he’s also been pushing for less of the traditional “waterfall” development and more iterative development, and limiting the number of technologies being used so that there’s greater standardization across the system so it can stand the test of time.

He also praised the financial efficiency of the latest leg of the system’s development, saying that the $20 million to $30 million Colorado has spent is just a fifth of what some other states have spent on their benefits management systems.

But McCurdy said that Colorado won’t need to continue this kind of IT modernization forever and that the state’s technology agency will soon enter a new phase.

“For the last four years I feel like I’ve been re-platforming these big iron platforms,” McCurdy said. “The next frontier is data. I’m not here to rebuild systems. I’m here to change people’s lives in the state of Colorado and our residents.”

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Colorado, Colorado Benefits Management System, David McCurdy, IT Modernization
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