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Wisconsin’s successful migration of its occupational licensing system to the cloud now includes business licenses.
Wisconsin has expanded its cloud-based licensing process from medical professionals to include other license applications, a state leader said this week at a Route Fifty event.
The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services launched its medical licensing portal last year, in a bid to speed up licensing medical professionals. Streamlining and automating the process has been so successful that DSPS added business licensing to that same portal last month, and plans to add trade professional licensing next year.
It’s all part of a phased approach that Jennifer Garrett, DSPS’ assistant deputy secretary, said has allowed the agency to work out any issues. From the start, state leaders have been systematic in prioritizing licenses that receive a high volume of applications for a move to the cloud to ensure that the system has as big an impact as possible.
The effort was funded in part by money from the American Rescue Plan and by state funds set aside for technology modernization, Garrett said during the GovExec State and Local Government Tech Summit. The first phase of the project was in development for between five and six months before rolling out in May last year, just in time for graduation season and the expected influx of medical license applications.
The quick turnaround time was a challenge, Garrett said, as was the need to preserve the state’s data in its existing infrastructure while also migrating it to the cloud system. Staff had to keep issuing licenses the old way while developing the new platform, she said. Sometimes, there can be synchronicity issues between the two datasets that must be resolved, as health care providers need to know medical professionals are fully licensed during the billing process.
Garrett said it also took a little time to get DSPS staff on board, as the new automated process was a big change from the paper-based systems they used up to that point. Now, the portal allows applicants to upload documents themselves. It checks them automatically and notifies applicants and staff if there is a change or any action needed—all with human oversight.
The launch of phase one in 2022 was “daunting,” but the second phase was much easier.
“There was no fear of the unknown,” when launching this second phase, Garrett said. “We had a known entity, we knew what the platform was, and we were adding to it rather than launching something brand new. And now we're in a place where we can iterate and refine,” she said.
“That year of experience was invaluable for our staff, and that second launch went so smoothly,” she added. “We really have brought everyone along, and we're all rowing in the same direction.”
The need to ensure everyone is on the same page extended to the other stakeholders in the licensing process, like higher education institutions and employers, and Garrett admitted that the compressed schedule left little time for outreach to those constituents. But since then, she said, DSPS has held roundtables and virtual forums and incorporated user feedback into the platform.
That feedback prompted development of a section of the portal specifically for nursing educators, who can now go in and manually update graduation dates, add students that may have been missed from auto-generated rosters and engage with the licensing process more.
“Communication is ongoing, and I think will continue to be ongoing as we innovate with the platform and add additional services,” she said.
Despite the challenges, DSPS’ phased cloud migration has been successful. With around 250,000 licensing applications to process across numerous professions every year from inside and outside the state, especially from new graduates, Garrett said it was imperative to move to a new system. “We had to modernize, or we weren't going to be able to maintain our workload,” she said.