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The Colorado Benefits Management System, which handles food, cash and medical assistance for the state's more than 5.5 million residents, is inundated with requests numbering into the thousands each day from every corner of the scenic state.
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But the state's on-premises legacy technology was having a hard time keeping up: County-wide agencies couldn't interact with each other in a timely manner, causing delays and, at times, poor service to its constituents.
That's why, earlier this year, Colorado decided to license Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Salesforce for the government to modernize its state-wide benefits management system using Service Cloud, Salesforce Analytics and the broader Salesforce platform. By investing in Salesforce technology, state executives say they can standardize the process for its more than 5,000 employees who use the Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS) to interact with citizens.
"Three or four years ago, Colorado invested heavily on the citizen-side of things with an app and new website," said David McCurdy, CTO of Colorado's Governor's Office of Information Technology. "What we're going through today is fixing that workflow for the county workers and [giving] it a more modern look and feel."
'The timing just made sense'
Salesforce for government initiatives is attractive to the public sector for a number of reasons, according to Paul Greenberg, founder and managing principal of 56 Group LLC and author of CRM at the Speed of Light.
"It might sound obvious, but when you have a cloud platform, you can roll it out when you need it and roll it back up when you don't," Greenberg said. "A huge problem that government agencies have, especially at the federal level, but also at state and city levels, is they have to expend time and money on resources that end up somewhat wasted because of setup and breakdown time."
For Colorado, the decision to move CBMS to the cloud was based not only on a need to use resources more effectively, but it was also weighed against the cost of maintaining its legacy systems.
"We were coming up against some choices in terms of hardware refresh and database refresh," McCurdy said. "Rather than replace the hardware and keep the same system, we're shifting those resources into AWS and into the Salesforce technology. The timing just made sense."
And while Salesforce has taken some heat for its licensing fees and expensive contracts, having a subscription-based pricing model is attractive for entities that need expenditures to be transparent.
"When you can have a model with repeatable expenditures, it makes it a lot easier for accounting," Greenberg said. "The subscription-based model works very well for government agencies."
Colorado is licensing the Salesforce technology for $3.6 million per year, according to state officials, a total that Greenberg calls "a substantial commitment" to Salesforce for government.
'It's not just legacy systems, it's legacy thinking'
Government agencies have been working for years to catch up with constituents when it comes to technology. Between regulations, decades of legacy system maintenance and substantial costs, public sector entities have lagged behind the technology boon of the last decade -- but that is changing, according to Greenberg.
"It's not just legacy systems, it's legacy thinking," Greenberg said. "Government employees are getting younger and grew up digital, or employees have learned to be actively digital.
Paul Greenbergfounder and managing principal, 56 Group LLC
"The problem is it's not just legacy systems that cost millions ... government agencies are regulated, and the regulations are often not recent enough to handle the changes in how people communicate and interact, and that creates a problem."
Officials in Colorado recognized this change several years ago and worked to get constituent-facing upgrades in place by redesigning state-wide websites and investing in an application that made it easier to interact with the Colorado Benefits Management System. Now, with its Salesforce for government platform, Colorado is easing into the workflow process for its thousands of employees.
"We support all the counties across the state, and everyone has a lot of opinions on what it should look and feel like," McCurdy said. "The last couple months we've gotten down and dirty with training the right workflow for all counties to make it more efficient and reduce the number of screens they have to go through."
The flexibility that the Salesforce platform provides was attractive to Colorado when scouting various technologies.
"The goal is to deliver services to the state and counties, and I'm trying to change the dynamic and stop thinking about bolt-on technology and think about developing a system so we can change when laws change," McCurdy said. "Other solutions are great; they're just not as integrated."
Colorado is still in the early stages of implementing both AWS and the Salesforce technology, and it will spend the majority of 2018 moving components from the previous technology to its Salesforce for government platform.