Insights

LMI’s Les Milner Talks Enterprise Maintenance and Operations Support for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program

May 26, 2022

LMI Staff

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LMI project manager Les Milner has over 30 years of experience working in information technology including supporting the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program alongside over 40 state agencies, Indian Tribal Organizations (ITO), and territories on multiple contracts. He is a trusted advisor providing advice and technical guidance to FNS and state agencies in the areas of management information systems (MIS) and electronic benefits transfer (EBT) systems management. He has been supporting the WIC program for 10 years since joining Suntiva, which was acquired by LMI in 2021.

LMI experts have a long history of supporting the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Can you share some of your learned experiences and what you would consider your area of expertise?

LMI’s team of experts have been working with the WIC program for many years, and something we all agree on as a team is  the environment is complex and the Clinic and FNS staff deal with many day-to-day challenges to ensure the program delivers on its core mission. We are continuously impressed the WIC program staff can find the bandwidth to not only take care of their own daily responsibilities, but also support us in technology projects related to MIS and EBT systems. We are grateful for their active involvement, which allows the design, development, and maintenance of these systems to meet both program needs and compliance with FNS policies and procedures.

My personal experience with WIC has been working with state agencies on MIS and EBT planning and implementation projects, and if I had to pick, I would consider my area of expertise to be in enterprise maintenance and operations. Although my background is predominantly in software development and operational support, I have learned a lot about state-level contracting for MIS and EBT services. I developed an ITIL-based performance work statement (PWS) template customized for WIC maintenance and enhancement (M&E) and maintenance and operations (M&O) contracts.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with all three State Agency Models (SAMS) to define and set up governance models. I’ve helped develop an independent verification and validation (IV&V) framework tailored for WIC technology projects that has been used on several MIS implementation efforts. I’m involved in the WIC EBT Technical Standards Development and Support project, which has two main functions:

  • To manage the functional requirements for the universal interface between the WIC Management Information Systems (WIC MIS) and the WIC Electronic Benefit Transfer Systems (WIC EBT System), known as WUMEI.
  • To facilitate the migration of the current specification to a robust standard that leverages the JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) data-interchange format.

I am also supporting the WIC MIS EBT Delivery Assessment. The LMI team is developing a feasibility study on cloud services that highlights how state agencies and industry are using cloud services to provision program services and the uses for these services in the future.

What do your team and LMI do well in enterprise maintenance and operations?

LMI has some very rich and robust service lines that are very applicable to WIC, including data operations, enterprise operations, digital solutions, and advanced analytics/AI. In our past engagements, we have leveraged enterprise operations and digital solutions heavily to support some of the projects mentioned earlier in this discussion. For instance, the Delivery Assessment project is leveraging our digital solutions capabilities to develop probing client questions, identify known challenges and issues, and identify solutions to address them. These are all key data inputs to the final feasibility study report we will deliver to FNS. We have leveraged our enterprise operations service line capabilities to support the SAMs and during our IV&V engagements, bringing knowledgeable staff to review, assess, and provide actional feedback on operational aspects such as system architecture, technology business management, system lifecycle management, and systems engineering.

We are excited for the future as states and FNS look to leverage innovative technology solutions like the above capabilities and data operations. We look forward to exploring the following questions with state agencies and FNS:

  • What data are FNS and state agencies currently collecting? Where is it? How is it being used?
  • What areas of the WIC program are best suited for data analytics?
  • How do I organize to support effective data management?

Could you share more about LMI’s innovative technology and how it can be useful in alleviating WIC and USDA pain points?

The pain points we are hearing about today are related to WIC-eligible participants that never sign up for the program and existing participants that leave the program early. As we see it, there are two aspects to be explored. First is researching how program data and other data sources can give insight into participant retention and engagement statistics and drivers. Second is identifying effective approaches to use technology to educate and train participants, local community leaders, and champions.

LMI’s ForgeTM team developed the Nutritional Health Application (NHA)—a mobile app prototype for soldiers featuring nutritional concepts and physical activity tracking that used gamification to encourage competition. This is one concept we are currently reimagining for the WIC participant community, to educate and train participants with the goal of promoting health equity.

Additionally, our work supporting CMS and eligible participant’s access to Medicare Advantage plans (MA) is similar in nature to identifying why eligible participants are not signing up for WIC and why current participants are leaving the program before their eligibility is up. We were able to determine if access to MA plans varies by county average income, the percentage of minority residents, or poverty level. We used county-level Census Bureau data to stratify the counties into quintiles, then used approved Plan Benefit Package data to identify the average number of plans available in each quintile. We designed, developed and operationalized multiple databases at the national level to support these efforts, and believe we can use the same methodologies for WIC and other agency initiatives.

What does success look like on your team?

Success involves engaging with the client at the state and federal levels and having a passion to understand the challenges and constraints our clients face when solving those challenges. WIC is complex, and because the states, ITOs, and territories each have a unique combination of needs, acknowledging these differences when dealing with each client is critical to building a trusting and mutually respectful partnership.

 

 

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