Leaders from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shared how the agency’s acquisition process fueled successful IT transformation in projects like Accelerate at the Feb. 26 ServiceNow Federal Forum.

CIO Jose Arrieta announced earlier this month that the agency’s Accelerate neural network had already saved the agency over $30 million. Now, at the ServiceNow event, he shared how the HHS IT transformation process enabled that success and how the agency works with industry throughout the process.

“For those of you that are interested in doing business with HHS from an industry perspective, we actually believe that tension is a good thing,” he said. “And we’re 100 percent open to the fact that if we’re going to change anything, we’re going to actually create a lot of tension within the agency. We’re comfortable with that because we think that generates a very good discussion.”

Arrieta added that when pursuing IT transformation, the tension should be balanced with a return on investment (ROI) that adds real value to the organization and the user community.

“If you’re going to put $20 million, $10 million in the underlying infrastructure, and you’re not going to drive any outcome for the user community, at some point your funding is going to run out,” he warned.

Accelerate is an example of an infrastructure project that proved its ROI to the user community. The $33 million in cost savings from the transformation, Arrieta explained, directly funded other agencies within HHS.

Jonathan Alboum, principal digital strategist for the Federal government at ServiceNow, also emphasized the importance of IT transformation teams showing the value of the projects they’re pursuing.

“After the fanfare, the project team is left to fend for themselves and nobody hears anything. Before you know it people start to wonder, will they ever produce anything? The challenge in all these situations is how do you demonstrate value?” he wondered. “Validating value is really critical. And then as you do that you champion that success; you go out and you tell your story about what you were able to do.”

At the event, HHS Chief Human Capital Officer Blair Duncan announced that the agency launched a human resource (HR) platform on Feb. 3 to better manage and transform its employee data.

“Using the platform, what we are able to do now is reach back into datasets, not just one data set many datasets, and give employees information that they need without having to go through human resources,” he explained. “There is no such thing in the Federal government that I know of with a modern HR digital experience. We’ve actually created it.”

So far, 10 percent of the HHS workforce can go in and access that information.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.