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Wisconsin gets UI modernization boost from 18F

The federal government’s digital services shop 18F will be partnering with the Wisconsin state government to help modernize its unemployment insurance system through an agile procurement process.

The pandemic and accompanying surge in unemployment claims has laid bare vulnerabilities in unemployment insurance systems as states tried to implement policy changes and respond to waves of claimants simultaneously with their decades-old IT systems.

The goal in Wisconsin is to issue at least one request for proposal and select a vendor team or teams within 10 weeks of starting the project. 18F will specifically be supporting with the state with user research, creating a procurement package, drafting a solicitation, picking qualified vendors and prototyping. The state workforce agency will do the final buys.

The normal funding and acquisition processes for massive technology updates can hobble massive modernization projects that some say would be better delivered by iterative development and smaller updates over time.

18F said it plans on using an agile procurement strategy, breaking up the large, complex procurement into multiple tightly scoped contracts so that modernization can be delivered in successive, interoperable increments. 

18F has worked with states on large procurements before. In 2016, the digital services shop helped California and Mississippi modernize their legacy child welfare systems. California used 18F’s agile blanket purchase agreement to set up a pool of agile development vendors that could produce user-centered software. Mississippi worked with 18F to find vendors it could use throughout its modernization project by asking them to build a prototype based on a single user story and a dataset, according to 18F.

"By bringing more agile methodologies to the establishment and delivery of contracts we can de-risk the acquisition process for both government and industry," FAS Deputy Commissioner and TTS Director Dave Zvenyach said in a statement about the partnership.

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.

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