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California Conducting National Search for Agile Development Chief

California is recruiting for a chief to lead development on one of its highest profile systems, the Child Welfare Digital Services project to replace a 20 year-old legacy system used by case workers across the state’s 58 counties.  Using open source software, agile methodologies and user-centered design, the project is embarking on an innovative new approach for California state government.

“All eyes are on this demonstration project, California’s first major effort using agile methodologies which represents a fundamental shift in the way state government approaches technology,” said Office of Systems Integration Director John Boule.  “A year and a half ago we abandoned the decade-old monolithic approach on this project, in favor of a modern, innovative strategy modeled after examples in the private sector and more recent success stories in the federal government.

“Case workers need modern, effective tools that allow them to spend more time in the field protecting children and less time in an office, in front of a computer,” Boule continued.  “A talented development chief will appreciate our clients’ needs and drive our team to produce the highest quality replacement system.”

In November of 2015, the project changed its development strategy from the traditional “waterfall” approach to using agile methodologies which focus on iterative development cycles and a rapid feedback loop with end-users.  Agile teams work in two-week sprints with daily status meetings to measure progress.  The new approach includes DevOps teams, placing a strong emphasis on collaboration between network engineers, developers, business program managers and state and county subject matter experts.

“Other states are watching as we use open source code as a public good that can be freely copied by government agencies and the public at large,” said Peter Kelly, Chief Deputy Director for the Office of Systems Integration, the agency overseeing the project.   “We are looking for an accomplished technology professional who can get the job done in California, and who understands the greater potential and impact of this project.”

Child Welfare Digital Services is reaching beyond California to find candidates to fill this role, classified as an official state position to oversee all application development activities on the project.  More details on the Development Chief position can be found here.

The project consists of eight digital services, or modules, to replace the legacy system that manages casework for county child protective services programs, foster home approvals and licensing, and other critical functions that allow case workers to protect children.   With the project’s first code release in March, teams of state staff and contractors, including designers, developers and project managers, have been working to get started under the new approach.  Momentum is building as more developer teams will be hired in the coming months.

The effort to replace the legacy CWS/CMS system began in 2004 with the Go Forward Plan to modernize the system, leading to the CWS Web project, approved in 2006. The California Legislature suspended the project in 2011, due to budget constraints, and required a study of CWS/CMS to answer specific question related to the existing system and approaches to address missing functionality. The Child Welfare Services – New System (CWS-NS) project received budget approval to move forward in July 2012.