Technology in HHS


Why reinvent the wheel? Benefits of out-of-the-box software in HHS

By Vasanth Parthasarathy

June 17, 2021

A legitimate concern with out-of-the-box software is around “industry standards” or “templates,” and their inability to adequately address the needs of particular agencies. In the third blog in our Technology in HHS series, we debunk some myths around OOB software and speak to its benefits for the Health and Human Services space.

It’s been a long day, work was demanding and you want nothing more than to rest. Then it hits you: you don’t have any leftovers. Now you have to decide whether to cook yourself a meal or order from somewhere else. When it comes to IT, this decision of going elsewhere or “cooking” up your system can be exceptionally daunting. After all, you know your own work better than anyone else, so why shouldn’t you develop it yourself? The catch here is that for software, it isn’t a one-and-done situation. There is a need for maintenance, scalability, and ongoing support. In Health and Human Services (HHS), the amount of sensitive data that is handled daily requires a robust and reliable system. Here, out-of-the-box (OOB) software has the potential to offer key advantages and address the needs of HHS.

What is OOB software?

Out-of-the-box software can help bring the best of both worlds by tailoring software to your needs, making it ready to use with just a few adjustments, and offering long-term support and maintenance. Essentially, OOB is software that can be deployed soon after delivery and requires very little customization upon arrival.

A good example of this would be Microsoft Office’s Word. Upon downloading and installing, Word should be up and running smoothly in no time. Typically, this software comes already customized, requiring little extra customization or setup by the customer. Additionally, the maintenance and support are usually supplied by the vendor. When something goes wrong with Microsoft Office, it’s not on you to fix the bug or issue - that’s why it’s so popular. Now, instead of word processing software, imagine fixing a bug or making changes to an enterprise application with 30,000 users without impacting their daily activities, and the real advantage of OOB software stands out.

While it may seem tempting to try to develop your own software, there are some key advantages to OOB products over custom-built products.

Disadvantages of custom builds

  • Long deployment time: While OOB products can be up and running in no time, custom builds not only take time and money to develop but their deployment could potentially be spread out over the course of years. This not only strands businesses and agencies with partial and buggy software for long periods at a time but what gets built soon becomes quickly outdated.
  • Reinventing the wheel: Starting from scratch potentially means that time and money are spent developing custom software that has tools or modules that already exist elsewhere. This is perfectly acceptable if the problem is unique or if already existing software cannot adequately address it, but if the problem has already been addressed, developing custom software could take up valuable resources from other, more pressing issues.

Potential of cloud-based OOB software

When looking for OOB software, questions of how it is delivered, maintained, and scaled should be of utmost importance. For the HHS, cloud-based OOB software can help address these questions.

  • Delivery: Cloud-based software is delivered as a service over the internet and not installed or built by the customer, allowing for rapid deployment. For Cardinality, a base product can be installed and deployed within 60 days of signing a contract.
  • Maintenance: Since it is delivered over the internet, the infrastructure for ensuring the availability of the application and maintaining performance parameters for the application is handled by the vendor, thus reducing administrative and hardware costs for the clients.
  • Scalability: Cloud-based services can be easily scaled and arranged on a pay-per-usage basis, simultaneously assuring the customer gets the flexibility they need and providing a cost-optimal solution.

But what about the daily work involved in HHS?

There is a legitimate concern with OOB software regarding what is typically called “industry standards” or “templates,” as these may not adequately address the needs of particular agencies. Here at Cardinality, our Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS) was made with the input of HHS professionals and fine-tuned to the needs of caseworkers.

Because of this insight, our OOB software can be constantly updated with new Federal laws, making sure that workflows are consistent with regulatory requirements.

Cardinality’s Redbird AI was built specifically with HHS and case management in mind. It “speaks” the natural language of HHS, meaning that it was trained on the input of caseworkers and intake workers. More than just being any old software or platform, our AI can help learn and grow with caseworkers, finding and eventually automating routine tasks.

Now, it wouldn’t make much sense if an agency decided to go with an OOB product that wasn’t adequately tested or if it lacked a positive track record. If this was the case, a custom build might have yielded similar results.

To recap, an already customized OOB product for HHS can provide fast delivery, reduced maintenance, and material costs, flexibility, and scalability. When deciding to go with an OOB product or develop a custom one in-house, why reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to?

Reach out to us to know more about how our 70-percent OOB software is making a difference in IT modernization efforts of HHS agencies across America.