IT Common Operations in a Multi-Vendor Environment: Getting it Right

As part of a strategy to maximize flexibility, simplicity, and efficiency for states and providers, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has required that states overhaul their approach to implementing Medicaid Enterprise Systems (MES). As a result, states have been steadily transitioning their Medicaid Management Information Systems (MMIS) from single, monolithic functions to integrated systems with multiple vendors handling different Medicaid functions. With the modular approach, states can take advantage of the latest technologies and vendor specializations, while implementing new business processes more quickly and cost-effectively.

The transition toward a multi-vendor environment signals a major transformation in the public sector. For one, as state agencies move to a modular landscape, they are seizing the opportunity to modernize their IT systems and integrate digital technology to streamline business processes, improve operations, and deliver more value to citizens.

The move toward a modular, multi-vendor environment also presents its fair share of challenges for state agencies. With respect to technology, every modular system relies on many underlying IT components that serve as building blocks for delivering business solutions—think software products, system operations, and services and functions used in the system architecture. State agencies must establish standardized strategies for these components to keep all vendors on the same page. In other words, state agencies must have a set of IT Common Operations (ITCO) to orchestrate an efficient multi-vendor landscape.

In this blog, we’ll share more about why this standardization is essential and take you through three steps for implementing it.


ITCO drives efficiency and value by ensuring that all common IT products and solutions function as expected across vendors. They serve as guidelines and set clear processes for IT operations and services that impact all vendors, such as DevOps and Security Event and Incident Management (SEIM).

Common operations help organizations:

  • Establish clear definitions of IT components and instructions for how to use them.
  • Create a structured decision process through governance and portfolio management to evaluate potential IT common operations services.
  • Define the direction on reuse, standardization, and quality for system implementations.
  • Guide project teams to accurately estimate the implementation and operation of IT components.
  • Reduce costs that may arise from redundancies associated with implementing IT components and facilitating training.

Of course, there is no “one-size fits all” approach to IT component standardization. For one agency, it might mean giving vendors the freedom to provide and use products of their choice. Another agency, however, might require vendors to provide and use common solutions or products from an approved list. Regardless of your strategy, prioritizing and following ITCO is vital to success in a modular ecosystem.

Implementing ITCO

To effectively establish common IT operations, follow these steps:

  • Step one: Set up your ITCO workgroup. Identify the personas within your organization to establish an ITCO workgroup. These typically include program leads, IT managers, and other key members in your organization who will interact with and benefit from IT components. With your workgroup in place, it’s time to define the process for identifying, analyzing, prioritizing, approving, procuring, and installing IT components. It’s important to align and integrate this ITCO process with your organization’s governance and portfolio/procurement processes.
  • Step two: Determine your usage and product strategies. Next, you’ll need to establish use cases for IT activities and components that impact all projects across vendors. This will inform your usage strategy for these activities and will allow you to set standards and best practices for vendors to follow going forward. Once you’ve got your usage strategy, craft your product strategy. This is all about determining whether project teams will need to use an IT component provided by the organization, or if they can supply an IT component of their choice. In other words, you’ll need to outline acceptable products and solutions that can be used across your enterprise. This decision will depend on several factors, including the cost to purchase and operate the product/solution, the cost to train staff, integration with internal processes, and the number of distinct products and solutions already in use.
  • Step three: Define your implementation strategy. Develop a roadmap for obtaining, rolling out, and operating the products and solutions you selected in step two. This will serve as the blueprint for the implementation and adoption of the IT components across your enterprise.

For state Medicaid agencies, the future is modern and modular. Those who are making the most of this moment are taking advantage of the latest technologies and digital solutions to drive efficiencies and create value for stakeholders. And as state agencies navigate a multi-vendor environment, common IT operations must be a key part of the strategy. If your agency isn’t leveraging ITCO to promote standardization and clarity across multiple vendors, it may be missing out on game-changing efficiencies and cost-savings opportunities.

For more on this topic, check out a recent blog that explores what it takes to manage the application lifecycle in a multi-vendor landscape.