SLI assisted the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) Division of Child Support improve the quality of the Agency's new Child Support System Project known as the Origin System Project, by providing periodic IV&V reviews of project processes and artifacts. The SLI IV&V team’s ability to recognize process improvement opportunities and a commitment to collaboration with the agency improved project outcomes

The Agency appreciated the flexibility and willingness of SLI and OCSE to try a different approach so we could maximize the value of SLI’s review and feedback.

Karen Coleman, Project Director
Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) - Division of Child Support

The Situation

Early in 2014 the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) Division of Child Support (Agency) made the strategic decision to replace its aging child support enforcement automated system, and the Agency commenced their new Child Support system replacement project known as the Origin System Project. When such projects are undertaken, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) requires the Agency to engage an Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) provider.  Through a competitive procurement process SLI Government Solutions was selected to deliver these IV&V services, which began in August of 2015.

The Agency’s procurement included standard IV&V service language and a detailed scope of work. The Agency requested a modest level of service using  industry standards based on the perceived level of risk associated with this project. The frequency for IV&V services was scheduled to be every six months (periodic) with an estimated review cycle of ten to twelve weeks in duration.  Since this was a transfer of technology from other states, periodic IV&V was deemed appropriate by OCSE.

The main concern for the Agency was preparing to address the amount of staff resource time it would take to participate and respond to IV&V findings, recommendations, and service needs. SLI understood this concern and, working collaboratively with the Agency, agreed to look for ways to minimize the impact of IV&V service needs on the Project team, while delivering the high-quality services for which SLI is known.

The Solution

SLI’s Initial Assessment Review began in October 2015 shortly after the Origin Kickoff meeting with stakeholders. The IV&V Initial Assessment provided a baseline from which future Review Cycles were measured to determine the maturity of the Project.

Since the SLI IV&V team was engaged in the Project every six months, there was a risk that proactive findings and recommendations would be more difficult to implement and therefore IV&V results would be less effective. Even though SLI adjusted its Review Cycle tasks to align with the project schedule, helping the Project Leadership team prepare for future activities and reduce Project risks were proving to be a challenge.  To address this need, the SLI IV&V team improved upon the Statement of Work (SOW) tasks by asking the Agency for critical areas of focus prior to each Review Cycle. As a result, the IV&V team provided a much deeper dive and shared assessment findings in areas of concern for the Project team. Such focused analysis aided the Project team with future planning activities and risk mitigation efforts and was in keeping with SLI’s service delivery philosophy of being a quality partner as opposed to an auditor.

During the IV&V Initial Review, which focused on project plans and governance, the IV&V team documented 32 Findings and actionable Recommendations. The project benefited from the IV&V team serving as a fresh set of eyes adding value to the plan and process reviews. IV&V was able to define whether processes were sufficiently detailed and where and how processes could be improved. However, the success of Findings and Recommendations efforts were largely due to the Agency and its willingness to accept and implement these recommendations.

As previously noted, this Agency established a culture of viewing the SLI IV&V team as a valued partner in this project. The Agency believed that the cumulative years of experience and the national best practices that SLI and the IV&V team brought to the table would proactively reduce project risks.  

The IV&V team and the Project team established a very collaborative relationship. Both teams wanted to leverage lessons learned and seek opportunities to improve processes.

The Outcome

During the first two and half years of SLI’s IV&V reviews, there were 99 Findings with 45 of those being Urgent and High findings. In the last year and half, there were 9 Findings with 3 being Urgent and High. The last year and a half of the Project’s Life Cycle included Defect Management, Implementation, Training, and Pilot activities where IV&V normally has increased the number of Findings and additional Risk concerns. IV&V attributes the low number of Findings to the Agency’s commitment to and execution of the Project Plans, continuous proactive planning and extensive risk management, seizing improvement opportunities, stakeholder engagement, and valuing Quality Assurance and IV&V Findings and Recommendations.

In April 2018, the new child support system (Origin) went live statewide with only one 60-day delay and an 8% cost variance from the start of the project.  Origin is deemed to be one of the most successfully managed system projects by Oregon stakeholders and the SLI IV&V team.

As the IV&V contract came to a close, there was not one outstanding IV&V Finding or Recommendation to be implemented by the Project team. The Project team acted on each Finding prior to the next Review Cycle. This is clearly an indicator of the value the Agency saw in the contributions from the SLI IV&V team, endorsing SLI’s IV&V as a Project partner in the success of the Origin System Project and not just a necessary federal oversight requirement.

The Lessons Learned

Unlike many projects, at the time of the Kickoff meeting the Agency had all the basic PMI.Org standard project plans drafted and approved by the stakeholders. On day-one, the Agency was ready to conduct business with approved methodologies in place. These project plans were already reviewed by the Quality Assurance vendor and other stakeholders, resulting in no start-up delays in project governance and management. These project plans were available for onboarding stakeholders, resulting in reduced startup time and faster integration into Project processes.

In addition, the Project team adopted a commitment to living these project plans daily, keeping them updated as improvement opportunities presented themselves. Unlike other system projects, every IV&V Finding and Recommendation on this project was evaluated, integrated, and operationalized into the management of the Project.

The IV&V team and the Project team established a very collaborative relationship. Both teams wanted to leverage lessons learned and seek opportunities to improve processes. One of those areas of improvement was with the structured SOW from the RFP. Based on the structured SOW for the IV&V team, SLI determined critical information was taking too long to get to the Project team. Findings and Recommendations could be acted upon if the Agency did not have to wait for a final report resulting in proactive project course corrections. In conjunction with OCSE, the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, and the Agency, the SLI IV&V team modified the process to provide urgent and high findings to the Agency once identified.  Karen Coleman, Oregon’s Project Director, noted “The Agency appreciated the flexibility and willingness of SLI and OCSE to try a different approach so we could maximize the value of SLI’s review and feedback.” 

Most importantly, the Agency accepted SLI as a partner in their success.  The SLI IV&V team customized its approach and processes to meet the needs of the Origin System Project without compromising quality or increasing the cost of the services.  Both components led to a true collaborative effort and a successful project.

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