According to the Project Management Institute, a project is defined as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result” and “has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources”.  Can we finally say we are at the end of our project?

It’s been over five (5) years since netlogx’ project management office began initiating, planning, executing and monitoring/controlling the completion of three projects within a Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) system. The last implementation was in 2017, so one would assume that the project has finally ended (#endofproject). Or, did implementation just lead us to the BEGINNING of another project.  Would we ever END the first project from five years ago?

The END of the MMIS Implementation project, was just the BEGINNING of the CMS MMIS Certification project, which was relayed to me as small in scope, with only a few resources to manage.  After all, the MMIS was in operations, so how difficult could it be to demonstrate that the system was functioning well enough to satisfy the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)?  I ended up committing to the project, however, after reading the MECT 2.1.1 Toolkit documentation, I realized that the project was slightly understated. It required more resources, a significant pool of vendors and stakeholders, a secure repository for certification evidence, and if not completed timely, it could have significant fiscal impacts (potential risks).  The project also involved tracking and securing evidence for over 850 requirements.  Not small in any way! And so, it began….

As the project progressed, stakeholders were identified, a repository was selected and configured to requirements, project communication plans established, resources allocated at the appropriate intervals to meet milestones, and risks continually monitored.  Communication of activities, milestones and progress continued throughout, and work was assigned and tracked through project schedule, action item logs, and other project tracking tools.  We were moving along in green toward project completion, which seemed only too good to be true.

Unfortunately, it was too good to be true!  As experienced project managers, we always need to anticipate and plan for change, right?   Well, in this project we ended up with two changes which came almost simultaneously….  The client wanted us to update the schedule and move the END date up two months.  And, #CMS rolled out a new MECT 2.2 Toolkit which changed the scope of the certification evidence, among other things.  And so, the project had a new BEGINNING and END when we were half way through the schedule!  In retrospect, these changes were advantageous to the State and to the project because it forced us to utilize our project change management skills to adjust the activities and tasks in the schedule to meet the new projected END date.

As changes were implemented, we continued to monitor risks and, of course, celebrated milestone completions along the way: requirement evidence was secured, quality checking performed, reports reviewed, and client stakeholder approvals obtained.  After submitting our certification evidence to CMS, there were three significant milestones left before the END:

  • Addressing any CMS/IV&V evidence feedback/comments
  • Developing live presentations/demonstrations of the MMIS system for a CMS on-site visit, and
  • Resolving any action items during and after the on-site visit

The state and supporting staff guided by the PMO showcased their knowledge and experience of the system and provided timely and accurate feedback as needed, so these milestones were met without issue, however we were NOT at the END just yet.

In the END, CMS held all the cards, as the final milestone was for CMS to send a simple letter to the State certifying the MMIS system, along with an assessment.  By obtaining CMS MMIS Certification, the state receives enhanced federal funding from 50/50 to 25/75 (state/federal funds) for the Operation and Maintenance of its Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS) which can equate to millions of dollars.

We look forward to celebrating the END of our project, and with all our experience, do you think we will begin another system certification? I would say YES; utilizing our lessons learned, we have gained valuable insight – and just maybe, you will be the client, partner or vendor we can reach out to for expertise and support along the way!