Mike Popovich ends his emails with "Ideas Start Here." He even had buttons printed up for STC employees and they enjoy making the most of them.
But ideas are just ideas until someone figures out what to do with them.
(A quick aside... I recall seeing one apocryphal story of a CEO who a started an employee suggestion program and soon after made this announcement: "I have received your suggestions on how to improve the company and the answer is no, I will not be resigning.")
Our story starts with a good idea, a big one - getting State vaccination data aggregated into one place so it can be evaluated and used for better decisions on vaccination programs. Makes sense. However, the old logic of "what gets measured gets done" falls apart when everyone is using different measurement systems.
So shoving inconsistent data into a consistent system created endless frustrations. When STC held an Interoperability Summit in 2015, the most common complaint was with "onboarding" -- trying to get the data from vaccination providers into the State IIS. Each State had its own system and none of them liked what they had.
One State had taken six years to get 200 providers into its system. States with thousands of providers have a backlog with no end in sight.
Karen Chin drew the assignment to head the STC team that would seek solutions - in company parlance, she became the Product Owner of the system that would eventually be called STC iQ.
Asked to describe the old system of inputting data, Karen said, "Our old system worked like a Border Patrol agent. Data came in and if it didn't have the proper passport it got sent back. Period. No explanation provided, just get it out of here."
As her team began to work on the problem, she explained the transformation in thinking: "We wanted to end up with something more like a data factory. We wanted to find new ways to help our 'suppliers' and improve our 'raw materials' by finding ways to automatically evaluate data. We created a system designed to make the providers better - they fix the data before the States get it."
As for the onboarding process, the folks at the State level are given a standard process that they monitor along with their providers, and problems/progress reported back. They know where each provider stands and just how each one is doing, good and bad. They not only know who needs help, but just what help they need. Karen says, "States can make better decision on how to work with providers. And they can easily report their State's progress to the CDC."
The upshot of these changes? Remember that onboarding a single provider often took six months or more, and States couldn't even picture a time when they'd be caught up with their onboarding.
"This is ambitious," Karen says, smiling, "but our new goal is to get onboarding down to two weeks. I think we can get there."
When that happens, it will certainly fit our definition of "disruptive," where the new process makes people wonder how they ever put up with the old one.