When it comes to building a resilient modernization effort, the people aspect of that task is “way more important” than the technology aspect, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Chief Information Officer (CIO) Rajiv Uppal.

At the AFCEA Bethesda Health IT Summit on Jan. 17, Uppal explained that technology is the easier part of the modernization puzzle, while the people part is “always a little more challenging.”

To tackle this issue, the CIO said that over the past few months, his organization set up a “trust workshop” aimed at getting employees to start building relationships with one another.

“We are so consumed with our own little silos, we keep working in our silos, and we really don’t work across,” Uppal said. “So, what we started doing was ‘okay, I’m gonna go and talk to five people who I usually do not talk to and build a relationship.’”

This simple task has brought about “significant changes” at CMS, Uppal said. Now, he regularly has “Zoom coffee” sessions with a number of people across the organization – especially people who he noted “did not speak up before.”

“Working on the people aspect is actually way more important than working on the technology,” Uppal said. “And unless you get the people, culture, moving in the direction that you want to – bringing the collaboration – so much of what we do without collaboration it sounds like a waste of money.”

“I can go and build technology in a silo, but it’s not going to help the people across if I don’t talk to them,” the CIO added. “So, having that collaboration has been really essential.”

Uppal said that with CMS’ current modernization efforts, the agency’s goal is to create a resilient, frictionless environment. He said that really just means making it “as easy as possible for people to do the right thing.”

Read More About
More Topics
Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.