Anatomy of a Successful Government IT Project

In November of 2012 the voters of the State of Washington approved an initiative to legalize growing and selling marijuana for recreational use. The state Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) was given the job of managing the expected onslaught of applications of wanna be cannabis tycoons. WSLCB had to have a system for accepting and managing applications that could be implemented quickly with minimal risk.

They chose to partner with cloudPWR®, who had extensive experience with both electronic workflows and government customers.

The system went live on November 18 and has been one of the smoothest IT project implementations among the hundreds I’ve been part of. I think there are three key reasons for that success:

Proven Technology as a Foundation

cloudPWR Team

For the MJ Licensing Project we chose to use the Oracle document management and workflow system already in use for liquor licensing. We paired this with DocuSign®
forms to provide an easy to use secure, interface for applicants. In order to provide a seamless and secure work process AIRLIFT® was implemented to perform several
key functions:

  1. It provides a friendly interface that lets MJ Licensing Specialists select prebuilt forms addressed for a specific applicant. They select the set from a work process form that pre-populates key information from Oracle. Then they send the applicant an “envelope” of DocuSign forms for them to fill out using a browser or mobile device on-line.
  2. AIRLIFT imports the completed envelope of forms into the Oracle application package and notifies the Licensing Specialist that “they have mail” for that application. The completed documents are displayed as individual PDFs in the file listing for that application. No manual processing or document scanning is required.

Communication is Key

Pin of the first license application

If “Location, location, location” are the three most important factors in real estate, communications serves the same function in a successful project. Two things that helped: The project team spent a lot of time listening to both the newly formed MJ Licensing Unit and existing Oracle workflow users within the liquor control board. We used our experience with similar systems to make sure we improved upon their existing process to deliver a system within their budget and schedule that was easier to use and had significantly reduced manual processing.

On top of normal best project management practices we used Box®, a cloud based collaboration tool to improve how we communicated on design. For example, LCB staff posted draft versions of application forms on Box for review by the team. The approved versions were then turned into DocuSign forms by the cloudPWR developers. Box provided a central, easy to use place for collaboration. It also served the same purpose for design of the workflow and internal documentation. It’s far superior to the normal project management communications tool—email! Consider how much time you spend each day looking for missing emails and you’ll see what I mean.


Marcy Wilsie and Frank O'Dell

In my experience one of the key factors in a successful project is a “can do” culture in the project team. With this project we had a team made up of experienced license investigation staff and newly recruited staff, along with strong support from upper management within the agency. Along with the talented cloudPWR team we had a great foundation for success.

But a can do team also likes to push the boundaries and we had to set expectations early. When I had a house built years ago you would think my wife and I could have picked out exactly what we wanted from the beginning. Of course, you’d be wrong! Since then we’ve changed flooring, expanded the patio, gutted the bathroom, and done things that at the time we didn’t imagine. IT projects, which evolve from the conceptual to the concrete, are much the same. We had to set expectations with the team that the initial project would provide a solid system that was user friendly to both internal users and applicants. But we’d learn things when our concepts collided with reality that would lead to further improvements.

The onslaught of applicants has ranged from entrepreneurs with well thought out plans to people who are probably already growing marijuana in their apartment–and thought that becoming legit would be as easy as getting a driver license. The system at the Washington State Liquor Control Board unit has helped the MJ Licensing Specialists handle this range of would-be cannabis tycoons. Thanks to integrating proven technology, solid communications, and a great team culture, you can count this project in the category of “Government IT Project Successes.”

Dennis Brooke is the VP of Enterprise Solutions for cloudPWR and the project manager for the Marijuana Licensing System project. He’s enjoyed working with the talented team members of cloudPWR and the State Liquor Control Board on this project.

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