The InfoWorld 2013 Technology Leadership Awards

Creativity and execution are hallmarks of great leadership, as these eight technologists proved in pushing their organizations in bold new directions

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TLA 2013: Technology Deployment

Babette Davis, executive liaison for Disability Insurance Branch, California EDD

Babette Davis, California EDD

For more than 25 years, the Disability Insurance unit of the California Employment Development Department has been using a mainframe system to process disability claims. That archaic system was inflexible and required every claim to be manually entered and processed. The EDD was able to pay claims on time, but it couldn't provide faster, more convenient and accessible services to citizens, as they increasingly expect in the Internet age.

The EDD thus launched an effort six years ago to create a new system, called SDI Online, envisioned as a state-of-the-art, Web-based solution to automate the nation's largest SDI program and improve the processing of SDI and paid-family-leave claims. It was also tasked to deliver high-quality self-service for claimants, medical providers, and employers. The effort was one of the most complex business and technology transformations ever undertaken by EDD.

The $158 million system went live in September 2012 with just a few hiccups as EDD staff used both it and the old system during a transition period, and the old system was retired in April 2013. Already, more than a half-million claims have been filed through the system, which combines a panoply of technology and tools, such as Microsoft .Net, IBM iLog, Oracle Identity Management, and SOA governance.

From a technology deployment perspective, efforts the size of SDI Online don't come quickly or easily in a public sector environment. For example, the actual project and procurement approval efforts normally start five years before the system is actually developed, which makes it hard to determine and specify appropriate technologies and keep the business and technical knowledge in place. The fixed-price nature of government contracts also puts vendors in a tough spot if initial expectations or specs don't pan out, risking cut corners as a result.

In September 2010, Davis took on the job of managing the project over its development, providing project management governance, high-level technology assessment, vendor management, and coordination with the EDD's director and CIO and with the prime contractors, Deloitte and Unisys. When she entered the project in its fifth month of execution, there was no common goal around the schedule or scope, and the design was falling into the standard dysfunction of ping-ponging documents back and forth without real value added or completion of deliverables. The go-live date could not be moved, so Davis had to restructure the project organization while keeping the project moving on schedule.

She imposed major milestone dates on all parties, with one schedule maintained by an integrated team of both state and vendor staff. She then established a team of state and vendor functional leads for the key project areas of organizational change, training, testing, development, and implementation. These leads mutually owned the progress and issues in their functional areas. Third, she established consistent meetings and reporting schedules so that status was shared across the broad project team. Within a few months, all parties working to common goals and expectations, as a true team.

This story, "The InfoWorld 2013 Technology Leadership Awards," was originally published at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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